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LCQ16: Elder abuse cases

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man in the Legislative Council today (November 11):


     Some elderly groups have relayed to me that at present, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) does not provide designated funding for the service of handling elder abuse cases.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will make reference to the existing arrangement of providing designated funding for the services of handling spouse battering and child abuse cases, and provide designated funding for the services of handling elder abuse cases, with a view to providing the same level of services; if it will, when the relevant arrangement will be made; if not, of the reasons for that;

(b) of the respective numbers of elder abuse cases handled by each District Elderly Community Centre, Neighbourhood Elderly Centre and Social Centre for the Elderly, as well as the respective numbers of training courses organised by the Labour and Welfare Bureau, Elderly Commission and SWD for social workers responsible for handling elder abuse cases, their numbers of participants and training hours, in the past three years; and

(c) whether it has assessed if the existing Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap. 212), Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210) and Domestic Violence Ordinance (Cap. 189) are sufficient to protect victims of elder abuse; whether the Government will make reference to the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance (Cap. 213) and enact an ordinance with the same legal effect to protect the legal rights of the elderly; if it will, of the relevant timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) sets aside funding each year to provide various preventive and support services for victims of domestic violence and families in need.  Except for the services of Refuge Centres for women which are tailor-made for women, other support services for victims and abusers of domestic violence are suitable for anyone in need, regardless of their age and gender.  SWD has no "designated funding" for handling cases of battered women and child abuse in particular.

     At present, various service units of both the Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (including Integrated Family Service Centres, District Elderly Community Centres (DECCs), Neighbourhood Elderly Centres (NECs), crisis intervention centres, Medical Social Services Units and SWD's Family and Child Protective Services Units, etc.) provide a range of services for victims and perpetrators of elder abuse.  These services include crisis intervention, hotline counselling, financial and accommodation assistance, and referral to respite services, emergency residential care and Refuge Centres, etc.

(b) Based on information collected by the Central Information System on Elder Abuse Cases of the SWD, there were 522, 612 and 647 newly reported elder abuse cases in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.  Most cases were reported by the Police.  A small number was reported by DECCs and NECs, as follows -

            Number of reported cases
     Year        DECCs     NECs
     2006         14        8
     2007          8        3
     2008          3        0

     Apart from the reported cases above, DECCs and NECs also handle cases reported by other organisations.  Elders in suspected abuse cases encountered by Social Centres for the Elderly are also referred to appropriate service units for follow-up, and these units will report to SWD.  Since these cases are not reported by DECCs, NECs or Social Centres for the Elderly, they are not reflected in the figures above.

     SWD regularly organises training courses for its staff (including social workers, medical personnel and other non-professional staff, etc.) to enhance their knowledge of, and skills in handling, elder abuse cases.  In the past three years, SWD organised a total of 16 training events with nearly 900 participants.  During the same period, the elderly service units of NGOs altogether provided more than 190 training sessions for their staff.  The number of participants in these sessions was close to 2,400.

(c) At present, Hong Kong has sound legislation to protect all citizens (including elders) from abuse.  Specifically, abused elders 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)).  They may also apply under the Domestic Violence Ordinance (DVO) (Chapter 189) to the court for an injunction order against molestation by their spouses, children or other relatives as specified in the DVO.

     Besides, according to the Mental Health Ordinance (Chapter 136), the Guardianship Board has the power to issue a guardianship order to appoint a guardian to make decisions on behalf of a mentally incapacitated person (including an elder) in respect of his personal, healthcare or financial matters.

     In view of the above, we do not see a need to enact a dedicated legislation against elder abuse or for the protection of the legal rights of elders.  We will continue to enhance public awareness of the problem of elder abuse through publicity and education, and adopt various prevention and intervention measures to provide appropriate support to abused elders.

Ends/Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:43


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