LCQ16: Community support services for the elderly

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (May 30):


     In 2003, the Government re-engineered the community support services for the elderly, converting most of the Social Centres for the Elderly into Neighbourhood Elderly Centres (NECs) and setting the standard of net operational floor area (NOFA) of NEC at 303 square metres (m2) (about 3 370 square feet).  At present, there are 118 NECs in Hong Kong, yet after conversion, the NOFA of some NECs which were converted at the original sites is below the standard, and service operators provide services under insufficient spaces.  The authorities provide some NECs with appurtenant grounds, but at the same time require those NECs to provide seven sessions of drop-in services at the appurtenant grounds each week.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of NECs provided with appurtenant grounds by the authorities at present; the number of NECs with areas not meeting the standard of 303 m2 as set out under the Schedule of Accommodation; according to the authorities' estimation, when all NECs will be provided with premises of sufficient area;

(b) given that the authorities request NECs to provide seven sessions of drop-in services at the appurtenant grounds each week, during which NECsˇ¦ staff need to be on duty, whether the authorities have stipulated the time at which NECs provide drop-in services at the appurtenant grounds each week; if they have, of the details; whether the authorities will consider increasing the manpower (eg social workers, welfare workers and programme workers) of NECs, so as to cope with the provision of drop-in services required by the Social Welfare Department; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that the appurtenant grounds are part of NECs, and NECs are already required to provide 12 sessions of drop-in services per week, why the authorities still require NECs to provide seven additional sessions of drop-in services at the appurtenant grounds each week; given that NECs, together with their appurtenant grounds, provide a total of 19 sessions of drop-in services each week, whether the service operators can substitute the drop-in services for some of the services required in the Funding and Service Agreements; if they can, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the authorities will accept the proposal of some fellow workers of NECs to require appurtenant grounds to be opened only when activities are being held; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) given that some fellow workers in the trade have pointed out that with the substantial increase in the demand for elderly services in various districts at present, NECs are playing the role of a small-scale district elderly community centre, and fellow workers in the trade have requested for a review of the functions, manpower and services of NECs (eg handling with flexibility the requests for setting up canteens in NECs, increasing the allied health manpower and simplifying the Standardized Care Need Assessment Mechanism, etc), whether the authorities will conduct a review in this regard; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Hon Cheung kwok-che's question is as follows:

(a) At present, the prescribed standard internal floor area of the neighbourhood elderly centres (NECs) is 394 square metres. Over the past few years, the Social Welfare Department (SWD), through the Housing Department, the Government Property Agency, etc, has been proactively identifying suitable sites at public housing estates and government, institution and community (GIC) facilities sites for relocation of NECs or setting up sub-bases, so as to help NECs meet the prescribed accommodation standard.

     Currently, there are 118 NECs in Hong Kong, 55 (ie 47%) of which have attained the prescribed accommodation standard. Out of the remaining 63 NECs that have yet to attain the prescribed standard, eight have been provided with sub-bases, and there is a plan in place for seven others to increase their floor area.  SWD will continue to identify suitable sites for NECs in need.

     In addition, in line with its policy to promote "Active Ageing" and "Ageing in Place", the Government will allocate $900 million under the Lotteries Fund to implement the "Improvement Programme of Elderly Centres" (IPEC) starting from 2012-13. The IPEC seeks to enhance the physical setting and facilities of some 250 elderly centres throughout the territory with a view to providing a novel and modern ambiance to meet the needs of different elders. Elderly centres may also use the funding to design and plan the interior layout to enhance their practicality.

(b) and (c) According to the essential service requirements under the Funding and Service Agreement (Agreement) of NECs, NECs are required to open at least six days a week and for a minimum of 48 hours in total.  So long as this requirement is observed, each NEC can schedule its own opening hours and sessions according to individual circumstances.

     The sub-base, being a part of the NEC, is subsidised by the Government to serve the public. They ought to observe the same principles in terms of making good use of resources and being user-friendly.  Its opening hours should follow the requirements stipulated in the Agreement.  If the operation of a sub-base is affected by its small size or other special circumstances, the organisation concerned may discuss with SWD the possibility of adjusting its essential service requirements such as its mode and hours of operation. NECs can also set their own rosters according to individual service needs.

(d) Since the re-engineering of community care services for the elderly in 2003, the Government has been monitoring closely the progress of the services and increasing resources accordingly. For example, in 2007-08, the Government allocated additional resources to all NECs, so that each of them could employ one additional social worker to enhance outreach services. In addition, the Government will establish an NEC in the Kai Tak Development Area in Kowloon City in 2013.  SWD will, as always, continue to review the services of NECs to meet service demand.

Ends/Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:16