Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ2: Support for hidden elders

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 12):


     It has been reported that two horrifying family tragedies happened in September last year.  An elderly man living in Shatin, who allegedly could not bear seeing his wife suffer from the pain of cancer, strangled his wife to death and then jumped to his death from a building after an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide together with his wife by burning charcoal.  Another case happened in Tseung Kwan O where a woman, who also allegedly could not bear to see her elderly spouse suffer from illness, suffocated her husband to death with a pillow before jumping to her death from a building.  Moreover, it had also been reported last year that an elderly couple in Tai Hang Sai Estate in Shek Kip Mei and a 60-year-old singleton elder in Lei Muk Shue Estate in Kwai Chung laid dead at their homes for several days before they were found.  Regarding the aforesaid incidents about the "hidden elderly", will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it knows at present the total number of social workers working in elderly centres throughout the territory who are dedicated to serving the "hidden elderly"; whether such dedicated social workers have to concurrently attend to other services in the elderly centres; of the total number of the "hidden elderly" identified by these social workers on their own initiative in each of the past five years;

(b) the Government will consider using the surplus of the Lotteries Fund or providing other additional resources so as to enhance the services for identifying and supporting the "hidden elderly"; and

(c) the Government will review the existing elderly care policy in view of the problem of the "hidden elderly"?



Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Wong Yuk-man is set out below:

(a) and (b) The needs of singleton elders are more likely to be neglected owing to the lack of care from family members.  Among them, the hidden elders are mostly devoid of family support and normal social life and also not known to our existing community support network.  These elders are particularly in need of our care. The Government has all along been trying to identify and support these elders through an array of community support and care services.

     At present, the 41 District Elderly Community Centres (DECCs) and 117 Neighbourhood Elderly Centres (NECs) in the territory will approach the singleton and hidden elders through their outreach services.  Each DECC has specially set up a Support Team for the Elderly (STE) which will seek to build mutual trust with the elders upon contact and provide them with suitable support and services according to their needs.  Such services include keeping in touch with elders through telephone calls and home visits, providing simple assistance (such as escorting elders to and from clinics and doing housework), providing emotional support and counselling, helping them rebuild their social network, and referring them to the relevant organisations for assistance (e.g referrals to hospitals for treatment, to the Housing Authority for compassionate rehousing and to the Social Welfare Department (SWD) for subsidised long-term care services, etc.).

     The STEs are now providing services for about 60,000 elders, of whom some 30,000 are singletons.

     In recent years, the Government has also allocated additional resources to the relevant service units for further strengthening the support for singleton and hidden elders.  In early 2008, additional recurrent funding of about $42 million was provided to all DECCs and NECs in the territory for each of them to recruit one more social worker to enhance their outreach services.  As the strengthening of outreach services will result in higher demand for DECC services, a further recurrent funding of $18 million has been provided since June 2008 for each DECC to recruit one more social worker to strengthen their counselling and referral services.  A total of 199 additional social worker posts have been created under these two new initiatives.  Over the past two years, the elderly centres have made use of the additional resources to reach out and support about 12 000 singleton or hidden elders.

     Under the Lump Sum Grant Subvention System, subvented non-governmental welfare organisations (including organisations operating elderly centres) may flexibly allocate funding and recruit staff according to their actual service needs.  As such, SWD has no statistics on the total number of social workers in Hong Kong who are solely or partly responsible for handling the cases of hidden elders at present.  

(c) Promoting "active ageing" is one of the key concepts of our elderly care policy.  With this in mind, we have been helping elders age in the community and enjoy a positive life.  Since 2008, we have collaborated with the Elderly Commission in launching the Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project (NAAP) which seeks to establish a neighbourhood support network and enable elders to become a new driving force in the community.  Besides, through cross-sectoral collaboration, NAAP mobilises different organisations and members of the community to promote the messages of neighbourhood support, inter-generational harmony, as well as care and respect for elders.  Many elders and members of the community serve as volunteers under NAAP.  So far, a total of 75 projects have been implemented throughout the territory.  Cases of hidden elders identified through these projects are being followed up by the Government or non-governmental organisations.

     The Hon Wong Yuk-man's question also raises the issue of stress faced by carers of elders.  In tandem with our efforts to strengthen the support for hidden elders, we are providing support to carers of elders through different channels.  At present, the 158 elderly centres, 85 home care service teams and 59 day care centres/units for the elderly throughout the territory are providing support services for carers, including counselling, assistance in forming mutual assistance groups, and providing demonstration and loan of rehabilitation equipment, etc.  Besides, all subvented residential care homes for the elderly and day care centres/units for the elderly also help relieve the stress of carers through their residential or day respite services.  We also launched the District-based Carer Training Scheme in 2007 to subsidise elderly centres in organising training programmes to teach carers basic care knowledge and skills so as to enhance their caring capacities.

     In addition, the 61 Integrated Family Service Centres and two Integrated Services Centres over the territory also provide needy families (including elderly families) with a continuum of preventive, supportive and remedial welfare services, including counselling and referral services, family life education, assistance in forming supportive/mutual help groups and consultation service etc., in order to enhance the skills of family carers in handling stress and problem solving.

     As our policy objective is to encourage "ageing in place", we will continue to provide various kinds of care and support services for elders in need, including day care and home care services for elders, as well as integrated support services for elders discharged from hospitals.  The Elderly Commission is conducting a consultancy study to explore how to provide community care services for elders through a more flexible and diversified service mode in the long run, so as to better meet the needs of elders and strengthen the support for elders who age at home and their carers.  The study is expected to be completed within this year.

Ends/Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:50


Print this page