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2017 Policy Address by Chief Executive (10)
VIII.  Poverty Alleviation, Elderly Care and Support for the Disadvantaged

Progress and Vision

164. Poverty alleviation, elderly care and support for the disadvantaged are at the top of the current-term Government's agenda.  Poverty alleviation initiatives implemented in the past four years have shown a clear vision and direction and proven effective.  The current-term Government's philosophy in poverty alleviation is to encourage and support people capable of working to achieve self-reliance through employment, and put in place a reasonable and sustainable social welfare system.

165. After taking office, the current-term Government immediately re-established the Commission on Poverty and announced the first official "poverty line" to provide objective data on the poverty problem and to serve as a foundation for building consensus.  The data is updated on a yearly basis, so the effectiveness of poverty alleviation measures can be reviewed with the community.

166. Over the past four years or so, our poverty alleviation work has been geared towards two major objectives, namely enhancing the social security programmes and encouraging self-reliance through employment.  While according priority to tackling elderly poverty and working poverty, the Government has also attached importance to the upward mobility of young people with grassroots background and the issue of social integration facing persons with disabilities, ethnic minority groups and others.  To address elderly poverty and working poverty, the Government has introduced two new support programmes — the Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) and the Low-income Working Family Allowance, over the short span of four years.  While offering economic assistance, the Government also attaches great importance to the provision of appropriate services for the disadvantaged.

167. Mastering the Chinese language is essential for ethnic minorities to integrate into the community.  Two years ago, the Government started to implement the Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework in primary and secondary schools.  From the next school year, the Government will provide additional resources for eligible kindergartens admitting eight or more non-Chinese speaking students, with a view to helping these students build a good foundation of Chinese language skills.

168. The Government has been actively promoting the employment of persons with disabilities for the past few years.  Apart from encouraging employers to employ more persons with disabilities, the Government has procured services from a non-governmental welfare organisation to strengthen counselling support for job seekers with disabilities.  We have also made use of the Community Care Fund (CCF) to encourage persons with disabilities to work and enhance support to the carers of persons with disabilities.  The review of the Disability Allowance (DA) has been completed and the relevant improvement measures are being implemented progressively.

169. In late 2015, the Government rolled out a two-year pilot scheme on On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services. The scheme provides training for about 2 900 children with special needs at the kindergartens or kindergartens-cum-child care centres they attend.  The Government has earmarked an annual recurrent expenditure of $460 million to convert the scheme into a regular government subsidy programme after its conclusion.  The programme will provide 7 000 places in phases with the ultimate aim of reducing the waiting time.

170. The earnest efforts of the current-term Government on poverty alleviation, elderly care and support for the disadvantaged are reflected in the rise in expenditure.  This year, estimated recurrent government expenditure on social welfare is $66.2 billion, a 55% increase over the level four years ago.  Our on-going efforts have borne fruit.  The poor population in 2015 stood at 970 000, i.e. below 1 million for the third consecutive year, with the poverty rate of working households hitting a record low since statistics were compiled in 2009.  The self-reliance spirit of our people is encouraging: the number of unemployment cases under the CSSA Scheme has decreased for 87 consecutive months to a 20-year low, with a drop of about 70% from its peak.

171. Since its establishment in 2011, the CCF has launched 36 assistance programmes with a total commitment of over $7 billion and benefiting about 1.47 million people.  In the coming year, we will invite the CCF to implement various new programmes.

172. I believe the current-term Government has laid the foundation for future poverty alleviation work.  Poverty alleviation is a long-term commitment in which the community must persevere.

Elderly Services

173. The Elderly Commission is conducting the third-stage public engagement exercise of the Elderly Services Programme Plan.  Preliminary observations show that the public and stakeholders generally support the policy of "ageing in place as the core, institutional care as back-up", reckoning that community care services should be strengthened.  The report on the Elderly Services Programme Plan is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

174. Before completion of the report, we will seize each and every opportunity to improve elderly services, particularly community care services, by inviting the CCF to consider implementing two pilot schemes to support elderly persons discharged from public hospitals after treatment and elderly persons with mild impairment.  Moreover, the Government continues to implement the Second Phase of the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly financed by the Lotteries Fund, with the quota increased to 3 000 vouchers in October last year.  The Government will provide an additional 2 000 vouchers under the scheme to support ageing in place for elderly persons with moderate or severe impairment.

175. The Government will continue to increase the number of subsidised residential care places for the elderly.  From the first quarter of this year, we will implement the Pilot Scheme on Residential Care Service Voucher for the Elderly by adopting a "money-following-the-user" approach, with a view to offering elderly persons in need of residential care service with an additional choice.  Under the pilot scheme, a total of 3 000 service vouchers will be issued from 2017 to 2019.

176. The Government will increase funding for the Infirmary Care Supplement and the Dementia Supplement and implement a pilot scheme under the Lotteries Fund to provide specialised residential care services for elderly persons with special needs at designated residential care homes for the elderly.

177. The Government will extend the Pilot Residential Care Services Scheme in Guangdong for three years to provide elderly persons waiting for subsidised care-and-attention places with an option to live in the two elderly homes located respectively in Shenzhen and Zhaoqing which are run by Hong Kong NGOs.  Under the Guangdong Scheme, we will once again exempt, on a one-off basis for a one-year period, eligible elderly persons already residing in Guangdong from the requirement of having resided in Hong Kong continuously for at least one year immediately before the date of application.  We will also introduce the Fujian Scheme to provide monthly Old Age Allowance (OAA) for eligible elderly persons who choose to reside in Fujian.

Support for the Disadvantaged

Persons with Disabilities

178. The Government will bolster support for persons with disabilities.  Measures include continuing to provide additional places of various rehabilitation services and strengthening outreach services to enhance support for ageing persons with disabilities in the community, stepping up support for ex-mentally ill persons through integrated community centres for mental wellness, injecting additional funding of $100 million for the Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprises Project for directly creating more employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, and inviting the CCF to consider implementing a pilot scheme to provide a special subsidy for persons with permanent stoma from low-income families to purchase medical consumables.

179. After the Elderly Commission completes the formulation of the Elderly Services Programme Plan, the Government will start formulating a new Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan by making reference to the relevant experience, to ensure that rehabilitation services will keep abreast with the times.

Children with Special Needs

180. To support children with special needs and their parents, the Government will waive the service fees of special child care centres and provide a non-means-tested training subsidy for children on the waiting list of these centres.

181. In the coming school year, the Government will continue to develop a support model applicable to senior secondary students with average to high functioning autism.

182. We will provide an additional grant for schools for children with severe intellectual disability, schools for children with physical disability and schools for children with visual impairment-cum-intellectual disability to enhance the care for 24-hour ventilator-dependent students.

Family Services

183. The Government will increase the level of various foster care allowances, provide 240 additional foster care places in phases and recruit more foster parents.  The Government will also offer additional resources for units of day/residential child care services and pre-school rehabilitation services for enhancing the remuneration for qualified staff.

184. The Government will, through the Lotteries Fund, inject $300 million into the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund.  This will enable the fund to continue to support social capital development projects and build mutual help networks in the community through cross-sector collaboration.

(To be continued)
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:43
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