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LCQ2: SWD's precautionary measures for people in need during cold weather

     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 (March 16):


     In late January this year, Hong Kong experienced the coldest spell in 59 years.  On January 24, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare told the media that, in the light of a drastic drop in temperature, the Social Welfare Department had already distributed sufficient warm clothing and food items (including scarves, hats, gloves, blankets, biscuits, milk powder, oatmeal, etc.) to 65 Integrated Family Service Centres, two Integrated Services Centres, as well as a total of 241 District Elderly Community Centres and Neighbourhood Elderly Centres (collectively referred to as elderly services centres below) for collection and use by elderly people in need. However, some social workers have complained to me that some of the elderly services centres did not receive any of such materials and their materials were all donated by charitable organisations.  Furthermore, quite a number of elderly people have complained to me that as they were not given out any warm clothing nor food items by the elderly services centres, they could only seek assistance from certain charitable funds and other non-subvented institutions. On giving out warm clothing and food items to elderly people in need, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the quantity of each type of warm clothing and food items distributed to elderly services centres in each of the past three years, with a tabulated breakdown by the District Council district in which the elderly services centres are located;

(2) whether it has reviewed if the quantities of warm clothing and food items distributed to various elderly services centres in January were sufficient; if it has reviewed and the outcome is in the affirmative, why some elderly services centres have not received any such materials, causing some elderly people in need having to seek assistance from other institutions; if the review outcome is in the negative, whether the authorities will immediately allocate more resources and distribute sufficient warm clothing and food items to various elderly services centres for use by elderly people in need; and

(3) whether it has stipulated the quantity of warm clothing that may be given out to each elderly person who seeks assistance (e.g. only one blanket or one windbreaker for each elderly person); if it has, how the authorities ensure that the relevant quantity of warm clothing is sufficient for the elderly people to cope with the cold spells?


Acting President,

     My consolidated reply to the questions raised by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung is as follows:

     Every year before the winter season, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) will prepare for the cold weather by taking precautionary measures, including provision of appropriate quantities of blankets for relevant service units through various District Social Welfare Offices (DSWOs), District Elderly Community Centres (DECCs), the Hotline and Outreaching Service Team and Integrated Services Teams for Street Sleepers so that blankets can be distributed to the needy in a timely manner. If the Neighbourhood Elderly Centres (NECs) find that there are elderly persons in need of blankets, they may contact DECCs or DSWOs. In 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16, SWD distributed about 2 400 blankets each year to needy persons. People in need may take more than one blanket to keep warm. In addition to blankets, DECCs and NECs may use the subvention from SWD to purchase other warm items (such as winter clothing and food) for the needy elderly in the districts. Service units will also distribute other warm items donated by individuals and organisations to provide support for the needy elderly in the districts during cold weather.

     During cold spells (i.e. when the Hong Kong Observatory issues a cold weather warning), SWD will liaise with its social welfare service units (including elderly centres) and those under non-governmental organisations, and remind them to strengthen support for their service recipients. The elderly support teams under DECCs and the elderly service units in the districts will remind elderly persons to stay alert to weather changes and advise them on ways to keep warm. They will also proactively approach the single and needy elderly, assess their needs in the cold weather, help them take necessary precautions and provide them with suitable warm items according to their needs.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:33


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