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LCQ19: Permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong under SSA Scheme
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    Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah on the permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong under SSA Scheme in the Legislative Council today (December 5):

Question:

Will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number, in the past three years, of elderly persons whose Old Age Allowance ("OAA") payments had been suspended/terminated for violating the stipulation on the annual permissible limit of 240 days' absence from Hong Kong, as well as on average, the amount of payments and the number of days of absence involved in each case;

(b) of the number of elderly persons who joined the Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme in each of the past three years, and whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the Scheme; and

(c) given that the elderly persons taking up long-term residence in Guangdong or Fujian Province are allowed to continue to receive cash assistance under the aforesaid Scheme, of the reasons for the Government's refusal to further relax the period of absence from Hong Kong for OAA on grounds that there is the need to ensure that public funds are spent on Hong Kong residents who regard Hong Kong as a place of permanent residence?

Reply:

Madam President,

(a) The Old Age Allowance (OAA) under the Social Security Allowance (SSA) Scheme is a non-contributory welfare scheme funded entirely by general revenue.  The SSA Scheme is set up to provide cash allowance for eligible Hong Kong residents to meet their special needs arising from old age.  Therefore, it is paid to those who consider Hong Kong as a place of permanent residence.  Regarding the permissible limits of absence from Hong Kong, the recipients can be absent from Hong Kong for a period of time without affecting the payment of allowance on condition that they have resided in Hong Kong for not less than 90 days in a year.  Furthermore, the permissible limit of absence has been relaxed from 180 days to 240 days in a year with effect from 1 October 2005.  According to the information available at end-October 2007, the number of cases in which elderly persons whose OAA payments had been deducted for exceeding the 240 days' permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong during the period from 1 October 2005 to 31 October 2007 is as follows :

(i) The number of OAA cases where recipients have exceeded the 240 daysíŽ permissible limit of absence : 1 988.

(ii) Estimated average amount deducted for each incident exceeding the 240 daysíŽ annual permissible limit : $366.

(iii) Average number of days of absence for each incidents exceeding the 240 daysíŽ annual permissible limit : 256 days.

(b) The Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (PCSSA) Scheme was introduced in 1997 to enable elderly recipients to continue to receive cash assistance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme if they choose to retire permanently in Guangdong Province.  Since August 1, 2005, the PCSSA Scheme has been extended to Fujian Province and relaxed to allow elderly persons who have received CSSA for at least one year to take up permanent residence in Guangdong or Fujian Province.

The number of cases and elderly CSSA recipients under the PCSSA Scheme in each of the past three years are as follows :

Year                               Numbers of Cases
                               (Number of Recipients)

2005íV06                              3 132 (3 231)
2006íV07                              3 196 (3 308)
2007íV08 (As at October 2007)         3 189 (3 316)

The PCSSA Scheme is designed to provide eligible elderly CSSA recipients with a choice to take up permanent residence in Guangdong or Fujian Province while continuing to receive cash assistance.  We believe that the existing scheme has met the needs of elderly CSSA recipients who choose to retire permanently in the Mainland.

(c) Since October 1, 2005, we have already relaxed the annual permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong under the SSA Scheme from 180 days to 240 days on condition that the recipient has resided in Hong Kong for not less than 90 days in a year.  The measure has taken into account the preference of those elders who would like to spend more time to travel or visit their relatives and friends outside Hong Kong or take up short-term residence, while on the other hand ensures that public funds are spent on Hong Kong residents who consider Hong Kong as a place of permanent residence.  We believe that the measures have struck a reasonable balance.


Ends/Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:44

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