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2016 Policy Address by Chief Executive (6)

VI. Poverty Alleviation, Elderly Care and Support for the Disadvantaged

Poverty Alleviation

142. Poverty alleviation, elderly care and support for the disadvantaged are at the top of the current-term Government's agenda.  Shortly after assuming office, I introduced the Old Age Living Allowance, which has benefited about 430 000 elderly persons.  In the same year, the Guangdong Scheme was implemented to provide Old Age Allowance for elderly persons who have chosen to reside in Guangdong, benefiting 16 300.  In the past three years or so, the Government has launched various measures to alleviate poverty and these efforts are gradually delivering results.  Our poor population and poverty rate dropped to 960 000 and 14.3% respectively in 2014, which are record lows since 2009.  I am glad to see that the number of unemployment cases under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme has decreased for more than 70 consecutive months, and the overall caseload has also dropped to the same low level recorded in 2002.

143. The Government very much encourages underprivileged people capable of working to achieve self-reliance through employment.  The Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme, which I proposed in the Policy Address two years ago, will accept applications in May this year.  The scheme also aims at encouraging self-reliance, and is expected to benefit around 200 000 grassroot families with some 700 000 people, including 170 000 eligible youngsters.

144. The Government provides a transport subsidy to encourage employment.  We proactively advanced the review and enhancement of the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme and have adopted a "dual-track" approach.  At the end of last year, over 98 000 people had received total subsidy of nearly $1.2 billion.  The Government is now conducting a comprehensive review of the scheme.

145.  The Government will continue to implement the $2 public transport fare concession scheme.  The scheme was extended to green minibuses in phases from March 2015, and the number of daily passenger trips taken by beneficiaries of the scheme has now exceeded 930 000.

146. On care for the elderly, apart from earmarking sites in 20 new development projects for the construction of elderly facilities, the Labour and Welfare Bureau is actively pursuing the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses.  About 9 000 new elderly service places and 8 000 new rehabilitation service places will be provided if the 60 or so projects under the scheme are implemented.

147. The Government will strengthen home care services.  The number of places for Enhanced Home and Community Care Services and Integrated Home Care Services (Frail Cases) increased to 8 365 in 2015, 35% higher than that in 2012.  Apart from stepping up community care services under the conventional approach, the Government has also implemented the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly.  Under a new funding mode of "money-following-the-user", the Government provides subsidies for service users directly in the form of service vouchers, allowing them to choose the community care services that suit their needs.  All 1 200 vouchers under the first phase were issued by early April 2014.  The Social Welfare Department is preparing to issue an additional 1 800 vouchers in the second phase expected to be launched this year.

Retirement Protection

148. The Commission on Poverty is now conducting a public engagement exercise to build community consensus on retirement protection.  I call on all of you to actively express your views and engage in an in-depth, informed, objective and rational discussion.

Elderly Services

149. Over the past four years, public resources allocated to elderly services have increased by 55%.  The Government will continue to strengthen the community and residential care services for the frail elderly based on the principle of "ageing in place as the core, institutional care as back-up".  The Elderly Commission is pressing ahead with the formulation of the Elderly Services Programme Plan for the medium and long term.

150. To further support elderly people living in the community, the Government will provide about 70 additional subsidised day care places between now and 2016-17.

151. The Government will continue to increase the supply of subsidised residential care places for the elderly and improve the service quality of residential care homes.  It will also comprehensively strengthen the monitoring of residential care homes for the elderly and those for persons with disabilities.  Measures include enhancing inspection and supervision, improving the regulatory mechanism and promoting staff training.

152. The Government will strengthen healthcare services for the elderly, including expanding the services of the Community Geriatric Assessment Teams of the Hospital Authority (HA) to more districts.

Support for the Disadvantaged

Persons with Disabilities

153. Compared with four years ago, the Government's recurrent expenditure on support services for persons with disabilities has increased by nearly 50%.  In future, continuous and comprehensive support for persons with disabilities will be provided, such as training subsidies and offering on a pilot basis on-site rehabilitation services to pre-school children; extending the duration of post-placement follow-up service, raising the amount of employment and job trial subsidies, and giving employers subsidies to carry out workplace modifications; and supporting persons with disabilities through case managers, and providing home care service for persons with severe disabilities.

154. The inter-departmental working group co-ordinated by the Labour and Welfare Bureau has completed the review of the eligibility criteria for the Disability Allowance.  The Government will implement the following recommendations of the working group:

(i) Improve the existing medical assessment arrangement for the Disability Allowance; and

(ii) Invite the Community Care Fund (CCF) to introduce pilot schemes to provide a living allowance for low-income carers of persons with disabilities, raising the maximum level of disregarded earnings for recipients with disabilities under the CSSA Scheme, and providing an additional grant for eligible recipients of higher Disability Allowance who are in paid employment.  The Labour Department will invite NGO(s) to assist in following up the employment support provided for job seekers with disabilities.

155. The Government will continue to increase manpower to better implement and monitor rehabilitation services.  It will provide additional service places, increase the number of places purchased under the Bought Place Scheme from private residential care homes for persons with disabilities, raise subventions for visiting medical practitioners to enhance the primary medical service for users of residential care homes, and provide additional Rehabuses and replace the old ones.

Children with Special Needs

156. The Pilot Scheme on On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services introduced in 2015-16 provides timely support for children waitlisted for services.  The Government has approved the provision of over 2 900 on-site service places by 16 NGOs for more than 450 kindergartens or child care centres.

157. To fulfil the performance pledge of providing assessment and professional diagnosis within six months, the Department of Health will set up an additional Child Assessment Centre.  The Government will also increase the training hours for those children on the waiting list for special child care centres.

158. Some middle-income parents are concerned that after their passing, the care for their children with special needs, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, would be upset.  The Labour and Welfare Bureau will establish a working group to explore the feasibility of setting up a public trust and review the related guardianship system, with a view to providing affordable services.

Family Services

159. The Government is conducting a public consultation on the legislative proposal for Parental Responsibility Model.  By implementing measures such as a pilot project on children contact service, it will promote the continuing parental responsibility of divorced parents towards their children.

160. The Government will give better support to victims of domestic violence and families in need by providing additional places in refuge centres for women and the Family Crisis Support Centre and increasing their resources.

Social Welfare Planning and Human Resources in Care Services

161. The Government is actively implementing the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses under which five projects are expected to provide about 240 additional elderly service places and about 450 additional subvented rehabilitation service places by 2017-18.

162. The Government has launched the Navigation Scheme for Young Persons in Care Services to offer employment and training opportunities to young persons interested in providing care services in the welfare sector.  A total of 1 000 training places will be provided in stages by five NGOs.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:36


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