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LCQ3: Elder abuse

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (May 16):


     With an aging population and an increasing number of assistance-seeking cases involving elderly abuse, quite a number of organisations and elderly people have relayed to me their dissatisfaction about the absence of a dedicated legislation at present for combating elderly abuse behaviour. Quite a number of elderly people (including demented elderly people) are victims of abuse without being given protection, and the abusers can get away without punishment. Despite the fact that several Legislative Council Members of the current term have put forth similar views, the Government has not yet introduced any legislation to protect the legal rights of elderly people. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that children and juveniles are at present protected under a dedicated legislation of the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance, but no dedicated legislation has been introduced by the Government for protecting elderly people, whether the current-term or the next-term Government will consider afresh repealing the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance, so that the public will not have the impression that the legislation only addresses the problem of child abuse but ignores the problem of elderly abuse, leaving the abused elderly people to continue not to be protected by any dedicated legislation; if it will, whether the current-term or the next-term Government will repeal the Ordinance; if not, whether it is because the current-term or the next-term Government considers that elderly people do not need to be protected by legislation;

(b) why the Secretary for Labour and Welfare replied to this Council, without conducting any public consultation, that it was not necessary to enact a dedicated legislation against the problem of elderly abuse; base on what public opinion the Secretary for Labour and Welfare came to the decision that it was not necessary to enact a dedicated legislation against the problem of elderly abuse; and

(c) whether the Social Welfare Department has instituted prosecution under the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance against a residential care home for the elderly in Sheung Shui a staff member of which was found to have forced an elderly resident to eat faeces; if it has, when the prosecution was instituted and what the outcome is; if not, whether it is because feeding faeces to elderly does not violate the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance?



     My reply to the Hon Leung Kwok-hung's question is as follows:

(a) and (b) As mentioned in my reply of January 13, 2010 to a relevant question, Hong Kong already has in place sound legislation to protect all citizens (including elders) from abuse. Specifically, elders are protected by legislation governing criminal offences, including the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200), the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap 212) and the Theft Ordinance (Cap 210).  Pursuant to the Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance (Cap 189), they may also apply to the court for an injunction order against molestation by their spouses, children or other persons as specified in that Ordinance. If an elder is a mentally incapacitated person, according to the Mental Health Ordinance (Cap 136), the Guardianship Board has the power to issue a guardianship order and appoint a guardian for him. The guardian can make decisions on behalf of the elder in respect of his personal or healthcare matters, or hold, receive or pay a specified monthly sum on his behalf. This arrangement can further protect the rights of elders who are under guardianship. In view of the above, we do not see the need to enact a dedicated legislation against elder abuse.

     Apart from legal protection, we will continue to enhance public awareness of the problem of elder abuse through publicity and education, provide training to frontline staff at service units, and adopt various prevention and intervention measures to provide appropriate support for elders.

     As regards the Protection of Children and Juvenile Ordinance (Cap 213) mentioned by the Hon Leung, it aims at protecting the children and juveniles as specified in that Ordinance. They are mainly those having been assaulted, ill-treated or sexually abused, or whose health, development or welfare has been neglected. Exercising the power conferred by that Ordinance, the Juvenile Court may make decisions in relation to the guardianship, custody and control of these children and juveniles. As this arrangement is not applicable to adults in general, it should not be used as a reference for dealing with elder abuse.  

     The Protection of Children and Juvenile Ordinance has its unique functions and should be retained. It is also not incompatible with the afore-mentioned legislation which protects citizens (including elders) from abuse.

(c) We do not tolerate elder abuse incidents in residential care homes for the elderly (RCHE), and would treat them seriously. If an RCHE staff abuses an elder, the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for The Elderly (LORCHE) of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) will follow up immediately once it has learnt of the incident.  Follow-up actions include conducting investigation and handling the case in accordance with SWD's "Procedural Guidelines for Handling Elder Abuse Cases", stepping up inspections of the RCHE concerned, and monitoring the implementation of improvement measures by the RCHE.

     Regarding the case mentioned by the Hon Leung, the RCHE staff who had abused an elder was convicted of four counts of assault and sentenced to imprisonment for six months by the Court on December 29, 2009. Following the incident, LORCHE had also taken a series of actions against the RCHE concerned, including: (1) meeting the management of the RCHE to understand what measures the RCHE would take to prevent similar incidents from happening again; (2) issuing a warning letter and instructions for rectification to the RCHE in accordance with section 19 of the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance (Cap 459), requiring the RCHE to formulate and execute detailed procedural guidelines on handling elder abuse cases, pay particular attention to professional ethics of its staff, and provide comprehensive training for them, etc; otherwise, SWD would prosecute the RCHE for breaching the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance; (3) shortening the validity period of the licence of the RCHE from the original two years to six months, thereby subjecting the RCHE to more frequent inspections; (4) conducting a total of 20 surprise inspections on the RCHE within 2010 to ensure that it had made improvements in accordance with the written instructions; and (5) stop buying 40 places from the RCHE, as a punishment for the RCHE's failure to take reasonable steps to prevent its elderly residents from being abused in accordance with the requirements of the service agreement for the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:23


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