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LCQ12: Elder abuse

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Abraham Shek in the Legislative Council today (May 27):


     While children and juveniles under the age of 18 are protected by the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance (Cap. 213), so far there is no separate legislation protecting the welfare of elderly people.  As most elderly people are financially dependent on their families, it can be expected that they have become more helpless since the onset of the financial tsunami.  According to the Central Information System on Elder Abuse Cases, the number of reported abuse cases rose from 528 in 2005 to 612 in 2007 and 647 in 2008.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of elderly abuse cases in the past three years in which assistance had been sought, and the latest figures and details of such reported cases during the period from January to April 2009, including the gravity of the abusive acts, whether such acts have given rise to suicidal tendency among the elderly concerned, and how such cases were handled;

(b) of the progress of the Pilot Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project, and whether the authorities have assessed the Project's effectiveness in curbing abuse of the elderly and promoting respect for the elderly in the community; if such an assessment has been conducted, of the outcome; and

(c) whether it intends to study the enactment of legislation against elderly abuse, and consult this Council, the relevant professions and members of the community; if so, of the details, if not, the reasons for that?



     The objective of the Government's elderly policy is to enable elders to live with dignity and provide them with the necessary support with a view to enhancing their sense of belonging and enabling them to enjoy a quality life.

     My reply to the question is as follows:

(a) Based on the information collected by the Central Information System on Elder Abuse Cases (the System) of the Social Welfare Department (SWD), there were 522, 612 and 647 newly registered elder abuse cases in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.  The information collected covers the types of elder abuse but not a breakdown on whether assistance had been requested or whether there was any suicidal tendency among the elders concerned.  As to the period from January to April 2009, the data relating to the elder abuse cases are still under processing and not available at the moment.  The following is a breakdown by types of elder abuse for the cases in 2008:  

  Types of elder abuse   Number of new cases in 2008
  --------------------   ---------------------------
  Physical abuse                     363
  Psychological abuse                188
  Neglect                              1
  Financial abuse                     66
  Abandonment                          1
  Sexual abuse                         6
  Multiple abuse                      22
  Total                              647

     At present, elder abuse cases are received by reporting officers in the SWD, Department of Health, Housing Department, Hong Kong Police Force, Hospital Authority and non-governmental organisations.  Upon identification and assessment of the service needs of the victim in an abuse case, the reporting officer will refer the case to a Family and Child Protective Service Unit, Integrated Family Service Centre, Integrated Services Centre, Medical Social Services Unit, District Elderly Community Centre, Neighbourhood Elderly Centre and/or relevant government department(s) as appropriate for follow up.  

(b) The Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB) and Elderly Commission (EC) have jointly launched the Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project (NAAP) since early 2008.  With elders playing a leading role, the NAAP seeks to establish neighbourhood support networks and enable elders to become a new driving force in the community.  Through cross-sectoral collaboration, the NAAP mobilises different organisations and individuals to promote active ageing and caring and respect for elders.  

     There are a total of 75 district projects organised/to be organised under the NAAP.  Among them, the projects under Pilot NAAP - Caring for Elders launched in September 2008 aim specifically to promote the prevention of elder abuse in the community through education, prevention and support, and to foster inter-generational integration and harmonious family life.  

     The LWB and EC will monitor the delivery and effectiveness of the NAAP through different channels, including meetings with stakeholders (e.g. elders, volunteers and participating organisations).  Participating organisations of the NAAP are also required to submit reports setting out, among others, an evaluation of the district projects.  When we have received these evaluation reports, we will conduct a review of the NAAP in due course.

(c) On criminal protection, victims of elder abuse cases are protected by legislation for criminal offences (including the Crimes Ordinance (Chapter 200), the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Chapter 212) and the Theft Ordinance (Chapter 210)).  On civil protection, the Domestic Violence Ordinance (DVO) (Chapter 189) provides protection to a range of domestic violence victims in specific relationships.  Under the DVO, abused elders may apply to the court for an injunction order against molestation by their spouses, children or other relatives as specified in the Ordinance.  We do not see a need to enact a dedicated legislation against elder abuse.  We will, however, focus on enhancing public awareness of the problem of elder abuse and on the formulation of prevention and intervention strategies.

Ends/Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:28


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