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2008-09 Policy Address by Chief Executive (9)

Assistance for the Elderly

70.  The ageing population is another challenge we must address.  The number of people aged 65 or above is expected to increase to 2.17 million by 2033, or two and a half times the present figure.  By then, one in four persons in Hong Kong will be in this group.  Individuals, families and society should share the responsibility for taking care of our elderly people.
Old Age Allowance

71.  The OAA Scheme is not intended to meet the basic needs of the elderly.  That is why the OAA rate is lower than that of the CSSA.  As the ageing population grows, and more of the elderly who cannot meet the CSSA income and asset eligibility resort to the OAA as a maintenance subsidy, there have been calls for the Government to increase the OAA rate to $1,000.  We need a comprehensive strategy on the provision of financial support for the elderly.  We should consider the following points:

(1)  In recognition of views expressed by different sectors and political parties over the past year, we concur that the proposed level of $1,000 for the OAA is reasonable.

(2)  Given a rapidly ageing population and our limited financial resources, we should direct resources to the elderly in genuine need to ensure the sustainable development of our existing non-contributory social security and welfare system, which is based on a simple tax regime.  As such, the Government needs to consider introducing a means test mechanism.  The current OAA recipients will not be affected.

(3)  We will proactively explore whether the permissible limit of absence from Hong Kong under the OAA Scheme can be further relaxed.

(4)  For the financially self-sufficient elderly, we also need to show our gratitude by encouraging various sectors and private organisations to offer different forms of concessions to them.

The LWB is working to complete the review on the OAA by year-end.  Over the past six months, the Government has provided altogether more than six additional months of the OAA to the elderly.  This should help alleviate the financial burden for needy elderly people in the short run.

Expanding Elderly Services

72.  We will increase subsidised residential care places through those to be provided in new contract homes and the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme.  At the same time, we will provide additional subsidised day care places and home-based services to better support elderly people and their carers.  The District-based Trial Scheme on Carer Training has proved effective in enhancing carers' confidence and skills in looking after the elderly.  We will extend the Scheme to cover all districts.

Support for Families

Core Family Values

73.  The Family Council headed by the Chief Secretary for Administration was established in December last year.  The Council has discussed in detail core family values and harmonious relationships among family members, and will encourage the community to participate in promoting these values.
74.  To create an environment conducive to family harmony, the Family Council is considering further ways to encourage the business community to adopt family-friendly work practices that enable employees to strike a work-family balance.  On the advice of the Council, the Government is looking into ways to include the family as a factor to consider in its policy-making process.  

Home-based Child Care Service

75.  To help needy families take better care of their children, the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project has this month been launched on a trial basis at six locations to mobilise community organisations to provide "centre-based care" services for children under six years old.  The service operators will also train women in the districts to become "home-based child carers" and encourage them to look after their neighbours' children at home.  This will promote mutual help in the neighbourhood.  In addition, the operating hours of the services are more flexible as they are available in the evenings, and on some weekends and holidays.  This can better meet the needs of parents who have to work or attend to urgent matters away from home, and thereby reduce the risk of children having accidents while left unattended at home.  The Project will be extended to all districts by March next year.

Combating Domestic Violence

76.  We have enhanced support services and amended legislation to strengthen protection for victims of domestic violence.  In the coming year, we will build on this foundation and further reinforce direct services and support.  This includes increasing the manpower of the Family and Child Protective Services Unit and the Clinical Psychology Unit, further developing the batterer intervention programmes, enhancing support provided by refuge and crisis centres to women and children in need as well as those facing family crises, and continuing to strengthen public education.

Enhancing Rehabilitation Services

77.  The Government will continue to develop family-oriented and diversified support services and enhance professional support for persons with disabilities or mental health problems so as to cater for their needs at different stages.

78.  Early action is vital to the development of children with disabilities.  The Government will strengthen pre-school training and provide timely services for them.  As for adults with disabilities, the Government will continue to provide additional places for day training and residential services.  We will also enhance medical social services for chronic patients and persons with mental health problems.

Tackling Juvenile Drug Abuse

79.  Over the past year, the Task Force led by the Secretary for Justice has been working in full swing to map out strategies to combat the youth drug abuse problem.  The Task Force has worked closely with anti-crime and anti-drug networks, solicited views from stakeholders, and enhanced collaboration among government departments, NGOs and the community for the anti-drug cause.  A series of short to medium-term measures, which are being implemented, cover preventive education and publicity, treatment and rehabilitation, law enforcement, and research.  A two-year territory-wide anti-drug campaign and the "Path Builders" initiative have been launched to foster a drug-free youth culture, and to mobilise the whole community to provide assistance to our young people at different levels and through innovative ways.  The Task Force will shortly publish a report on holistic and sustainable policies and measures for the long term.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:03


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