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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (14)

Working Together for the Needy

135. The Government has been providing a wide range of welfare services to the public, as well as a social security net to help those in need meet their living expenses and attain the goal of "moving from welfare to self-reliance".  In the past 10 years, recurrent expenditure on social welfare has increased by over 50 per cent, outpacing the expenditure increase in other policy area groups.  In 2010-11, recurrent expenditure on social welfare is estimated to be around $40 billion, accounting for 17 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.  I will now set out the major initiatives.

Caring for the Elderly

136. According to the latest projection, the number of people aged 65 or above will rise sharply in the next 20 to 30 years.  At present, on average, one in every eight persons in Hong Kong is 65 or over.  By 2036, it will be one in every four persons.  The demand for elderly care services will continue to grow substantially.

137. In view of this, we will strengthen residential care services to serve elderly people who cannot be taken care of at home, especially frail elderly people requiring nursing care.  The Policy Address announced initiatives to speed up the provision of subsidised nursing home places and those offering a continuum of care.  I will increase the recurrent funding by about $160 million to provide over 1 000 additional places, an increase of more than 60 per cent over the number of additional places announced in the last Budget.  The Government will also allocate $5 million to launch a pilot scheme to provide residential care homes with visiting pharmacist services, with a view to enhancing the service quality of these institutions.

138. In the long run, elderly services must be well planned in a holistic manner.  In January this year, the Elderly Commission released its consultancy study report on Residential Care Services for the Elderly.  It pointed out that, with a rapidly ageing population, a longer life expectancy and a low tax regime, increasing the supply of subsidised residential care places alone will not be sufficient to meet the ever-growing demand for long-term care services of the elderly.  The study recommends that the Government should target limited public resources at providing subsidised residential care services to the elderly most in need, and further develop community care services to help the elderly age in place.

139. We agree with the general direction of "ageing in place" advocated in the study report, which is in line with the Government's policy of "supporting ageing in the community as the core, institutional care as back-up".  In tandem with the Elderly Commission's study on community care services, we will launch an elderly home care pilot scheme to provide more personalised home care services for the elderly who are waiting for nursing home places.  I have earmarked $55 million under the Lotteries Fund to implement this pilot scheme in Kowloon.  The Social Welfare Department will invite organisations with experience in elderly services to submit expressions of interest setting out their proposals on the service content and the modes of service delivery.

140. The Government will also increase recurrent funding by about $9 million to provide 115 additional subsidised day care places for the elderly, and provide additional funding of about $4 million to extend the District-based Scheme on Carer Training.  These measures will help provide support to elderly people ageing at home.

Supporting Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities

141. I will provide additional recurrent funding of about $100 million to enhance services for persons with disabilities.  About $60 million will be used to provide 268 additional subvented residential care places for persons with disabilities, 154 additional places for pre-school rehabilitation services and 260 additional places for day training and vocational rehabilitation services.  About $40 million will be used to strengthen such support services as physiotherapy and nursing care for elderly residents in subvented residential care homes for persons with intellectual disability.  I will also provide additional funding of about $8 million to increase the number of Rehabuses to 119 by acquiring four new buses and replacing six old ones.

142. We will regulate the residential care homes for persons with disabilities through a statutory licensing scheme.  Before the scheme is launched, we will introduce complementary measures to encourage operators of private residential care homes to improve their service quality, increase the provision of subsidised residential care places, and facilitate the market to develop residential care homes of different types and modes of operation.  I have earmarked $64 million under the Lotteries Fund to implement a pilot Bought Place Scheme for residential care homes for persons with disabilities.  The Social Welfare Department will finalise the operational details of the scheme as soon as possible.

143. Moreover, I will earmark $163 million under the Lotteries Fund to implement a pilot scheme to provide persons with severe disabilities with home-based nursing care services, with a view to strengthening the community support to persons with disabilities and relieving the pressure on their family carers.  The pilot scheme will be launched in Kwun Tong and Tuen Mun, where there are more persons with severe disabilities on the waiting lists for residential care home places.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:28


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