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LCQ10: Family carers

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi in the Legislative Council today (June 3):


     It has been reported that a university professor has pointed out that since family carers of patients with Alzheimer's disease are subject to tremendous pressure, they age even faster than the patients.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) given that the Research Grants Council allocated a funding of nearly $5 million early this year to support a research project on the pressure faced by family carers of patients with Alzheimer's disease, whether the authorities have any plan to fund research projects on carers of other types of family members (e.g. persons with disabilities and young children of single-parent families); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether they have formulated any new measure to strengthen the community support to family carers so as to relieve their pressure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether they will consider granting allowance and providing welfare services to family carers; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) whether they will make reference to overseas legislation and legislate to protect family carers; if they will, when they will implement the legislation; if not, of the reasons for that?



(a) The Government attaches great importance to the service needs of family carers and has been trying to understand their demand for different types of welfare services through various channels.  The Social Welfare Department (SWD) often makes reference to a variety of social indicators in relation to welfare needs and collects the views of service users and their family members on support services.  SWD also reviews with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned the mode of operation and coverage of services, with a view to providing service users and their family members with the most appropriate services and support.  The Government welcomes various sectors, including the academia, to conduct researches on topics relating to family carers.  We will also keep in view relevant researches and make reference to their recommendations where appropriate.

(b) The Government has been providing a range of support services to help alleviate the pressure on different types of family carers.  

     The 41 District Elderly Community Centres (DECCs), 115 Neighbourhood Elderly Centres, 85 Home Care Service teams and 58 Day Care Centres/Units throughout the territory are providing support services for elderly carers, including the provision of information, training and counselling, assistance in forming carers' mutual-assistance groups, setting up of resource centres, and giving demonstration and loan of rehabilitation equipment, etc.  Besides, all subvented Residential Care Homes for the Elderly and Day Care Centres/Units also provide relief to carers through their residential/day respite services.

     In addition, the Elderly Commission, Labour and Welfare Bureau and Social Welfare Department launched the "District-based Carer Training Trial Scheme" (the Trial Scheme) in October 2007.  The purpose of the Trial Scheme was to subsidise DECCs to partner with community organisations of their districts to organise carer training programme and implement carer services.  Depending on the situation of individual districts, the concerned DECCs would engage those who have completed the training programme as carer-helpers.  The carer-helpers help relieve the pressure of elderly carers by providing temporary stand-in services.  As of today, 765 individuals have completed the training and more than 6 100 headcounts of elders have been served.  In view of the positive response to the Trial Scheme, we have extended the scheme to cover all districts in the territory in March this year.  It is expected that another 1,500 individuals will be trained in this new round of training programme.

     On support services for family carers of persons with disabilities (PWDs), SWD has set up 16 District Support Centres (DSCs) for PWDs in January 2009 through the re-engineering of community support services.  The DSCs adopt a district-based approach for the provision of one-stop community support services to PWDs and their families/carers, with a view to enhancing the domestic and community living skills of PWDs, thereby facilitating them to integrate into the community while strengthening the caring capacity and relieving the stress of their families/carers.  The DSCs will liaise, communicate and collaborate with stakeholders in the district, including families/carers of PWDs, for the provision of suitable services commensurate with their needs.

     In addition, there is currently a range of community support services providing training and assistance to PWDs and their families/carers in order to strengthen their caring capacity and relieve their stress.  These services include parents/relatives resource centre for disabled persons, community rehabilitation day centres, transitional care and support centre for tetraplegic patients, day care service for persons with severe disabilities, specialised home-based training and support service, community-based support projects, community mental health link, community mental health intervention project and self-help organisations, etc.

     As regards child carers, while it is the responsibility of parents to take care of their young children, the Government and NGOs provide different forms of day child care services to assist parents (including single parents) who cannot take care of their young children temporarily due to work or other reasons.  We also strive to promote more flexible services, including the three-year pilot Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP) which has been implemented by SWD since 2008-09.  

     Besides the above support services for specific types of family carers, the 61 Integrated Family Service Centres and two Integrated Services Centres over the territory also provide needy family carers with a continuum of preventive, supportive and remedial welfare services, which include counselling service, supportive/mutual help group, developmental programmes, family aide service, family life education, parent-child activities.  They also refer needy persons to apply for supportive community services (e.g. financial assistance) and child care services, etc., in order to enhance the skills of carers in handling stress and problem solving.

(c) Cherishing the family is one of the core values of our society.  The Government has therefore been promoting mutual family support, and we value contributions made by family carers to their family members.  As mentioned above, the various types of support services provided by the Government to family carers aim at helping them discharge their family responsibilities and alleviating their stress, rather than substituting family functions.  We believe that our existing support services can reflect social values and, compared to the provision of subsidies, can better address the needs of family carers.

(d) As mentioned above, the Government has been providing various types of services to different kinds of family carers.  These range from the provision of training, counselling and information, to arrangement of temporary respite services and supportive/mutual help groups.  In addition, SWD and NGOs operating these services have all along been collecting feedback from different sectors in society through various channels.  They will review the service content and operation mode from time to time to identify room for improvement, with a view to providing the most suitable support to family carers.  The Government therefore does not have any plan to legislate to provide support or protection for family carers.  

Ends/Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:07


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