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LCQ11: Elderly recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and Old Age Allowance

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Ronny Tong in the Legislative Council today (July 8):


     Recently, quite a number of elderly people and organisations serving the elderly have complained to me that as it is difficult to be granted Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), the elderly people concerned have to live on Old Age Allowance, or collect waste paper for sale or even join the work force again to resolve their financial difficulties.  Some elderly people have chosen not to live with their children to increase the chance of being granted CSSA, but because of the psychological consideration of the Chinese of not wanting to lose face, these elderly people are usually reluctant to ask their children to sign a statement that they will not provide financial support to their parents (commonly known as the "bad son statement"), and hence will eventually give up applying for CSSA.  Although the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has indicated that discretion will be exercised to allow elderly people in need to apply for CSSA on their own, the chance for them to be allowed to do so is very slim, especially with the implementation of the requirement by SWD since June 1999 that CSSA applications have to be submitted on a household basis, which has made it even more difficult for elderly people to apply for CSSA on their own, and such elderly people lamented that they could hardly enjoy their twilight years comfortably.  In this connection, will the Government set out in the tables at Annex 1 the following information of each financial year from 1999-2000 to 2008-2009:

(a) a breakdown of the cases of elderly people receiving CSSA;
(b) a breakdown of the cases of elderly people receiving Normal Old Age Allowance or Higher Old Age Allowance; and
(c) the number of cases in which discretionary approval was granted to the elderly people who lived with their children and applied for CSSA on their own, as well as the number of those which were rejected?


     The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme is designed to bring the income of families and individuals (including elders) who cannot support themselves financially up to a prescribed level to meet their basic needs by way of an income supplement.  Since families constitute the core units of our community, CSSA applicants (including elderly applicants) living with their family members are required to make their applications on a household basis.  This requirement seeks to encourage family members to render assistance and support to each other.  Income-earners should take up the responsibility of supporting their family members who have no financial means, instead of transferring the responsibility to taxpayers.

     On the other hand, the CSSA scheme is non-contributory in nature.  Applicants are subject to income tests to ensure that CSSA payments are provided to families and individuals with genuine financial difficulties.  As such, regardless of whether they are living with their family members, all elders who apply for CSSA on their own must submit a "declaration" on their financial situation to verify whether they have other sources of income.  The "declaration of not providing support to parents" referred to in the question and often mentioned by the public is incorrect and easy to cause misunderstanding.  In fact, it is only a simple declaration on financial situation, a copy of which is at Annex 2 for reference.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The number of CSSA cases with elderly recipients and the expenditure involved since 2001-02 (Note) are set out at Annex 3.

(b) The number of cases in which elders receive Normal Old Age Allowance (Normal OAA) and Higher Old Age Allowance (Higher OAA) and the expenditure involved since 1999-2000 are set out at Annex 4.

(c) As mentioned above, CSSA applicants are generally required to make their applications on a household basis.  Under special circumstances, for example, where an elderly applicant has poor relationship with his/her family members or there are special reasons that children of an applicant cannot provide support to him/her, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) will consider such circumstances on a case-by-case basis and may allow an elder in need to apply for CSSA on his/her own.  Staff of the SWD will normally conduct interviews with these applicants and their children to verify their financial ties and the actual situation.

     A breakdown of elders living with their family members but having applied for CSSA on their own since January 2000 is set out at Annex 5.

Note: The Computerised Social Security System used to process the figures has only started to operate since October 2000.  Therefore only figures from 2001-02 are available.  

Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Issued at HKT 13:06


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