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CE emphasises caring society and pledges assistance for the disadvantaged
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     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, emphasised the need for a caring society and rolled out a series of measures to assist the disadvantaged in his first Policy Address today (January 16).

     "While Hong Kong is a generally affluent society, there are still many people who live a hand-to-mouth existence," Mr Leung said.

     The Chief Executive said that the Commission on Poverty (CoP) had identified setting a poverty line as one of its priorities in assisting the disadvantaged, which indicated the will and commitment of the current-term Government in alleviating the poverty problem.

     Mr Leung said, "The poverty line serves three functions: quantifying the poverty-stricken population for a focused analysis of the situation of various groups living below the poverty line; thoroughly investigating the causes of poverty and serving as a guiding reference for policy formulation so that our poverty alleviation efforts can be more effective; and assessing the effectiveness of our poverty alleviation policies against changes in the size of the poverty-stricken population."

     The Chief Executive highlighted the challenges of coping with Hong Kong's ageing population, noting that the number of people aged 65 or above in the city would increase from 940 000 to around 2 560 000 within 30 years.

     The Social Security and Retirement Protection Task Force under the CoP will study retirement protection in depth, consider all views objectively and work towards a consensus on the way forward.

     Mr Leung noted that through the Community Care Fund, the Government would continue to pilot different assistance programmes and trial schemes to provide necessary assistance for the disadvantaged.

     He announced that the first phase of the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly would be launched in September.

     "The Scheme adopts an innovative funding mode, namely the 'money follows the user' approach," Mr Leung said.

     "Eligible elderly may choose the services that suit their individual needs with the use of service vouchers."

     The Chief Executive said from now to 2014-15, the Social Welfare Department would provide over 1700 new subsidised places while in the long run, new sites would be identified for residential care homes.

     Elderly people suffering from chronic diseases require longer-term infirmary care and rehabilitation services. Mr Leung said that the Hospital Authority would provide 130 additional convalescent beds and explore other modes of co-operation with the private sector in order to strengthen the infirmary care services for public hospital patients.

     Noting that the Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) would be launched in April, Mr Leung said the Government would, at a later stage, explore the feasibility of eligible elderly people living in Guangdong receiving the OALA.

     The Chief Executive also pledged to strengthen the support for persons with disabilities and their families. For day training and residential care services, the Government would provide more service places and identify suitable development sites as soon as possible to increase the supply.  

     "To promote the employment of persons with disabilities, the Government will increase job attachment allowance and wage subsidy under the On the Job Training Programme for People with Disabilities and the Sunnyway íV On the Job Training Programme for Young People with Disabilities," the Chief Executive said.

     Meanwhile, the Government will further enhance the point-to-point rehabus service and is studying the extension of the Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities to eligible children with disabilities aged under 12.

     The Labour and Welfare Bureau is undertaking the preparatory work for the establishment of an inter-departmental working group to study the allowance of people with loss of one limb to apply for the Disability Allowance as mentioned in the Manifesto.

     The Chief Executive also announced that to ease the burden of families employing foreign domestic helpers (FDHs), the FDH Levy would be abolished. The Secretary for Labour and Welfare would work out the long-term financial arrangements for the Employment Retraining Board and submit proposals to the Financial Secretary.

Ends/Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:20

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