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LCQ18: Home adaptation or modification works in public rental housing flats
     Following is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
     It is learnt that at present, the Housing Department (HD) may, without referrals from medical officers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists or social workers (medical social workers), carry out simple home adaptation or modification works (e.g. installing grab rails in bathrooms) free of charge for elderly and disabled tenants of public rental housing (PRH) units. However, some elderly people have recently approached me for assistance, saying that HD staff have asked them to seek referrals from medical social workers on their own before these staff can install grab rails in the bathrooms of their units. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the definition of "simple home adaptation or modification works", and the procedure for applying for carrying out such works by PRH tenants; whether it has drawn up clear guidelines to assist frontline HD staff in handling applications for such works;
(2) of the publicity efforts made by the authorities on the aforesaid waiver of referral; whether they have considered uploading the relevant application form onto HD's webpage to simplify the application procedure;
(3) as the authorities have indicated earlier on that grab rails will be installed in the bathrooms of all newly built PRH units, which PRH estate units already have such facilities installed in bathrooms; whether the authorities pre-install the grab rail facilities or need to obtain tenants' confirmation before carrying out the installation works;
(4) whether the authorities will, when allocating non-newly built PRH units to elderly households (including families with elderly members), take the initiative to enquire about the needs of these households for barrier-free facilities, so that the units can be modified to cater for their needs; if so, whether such modification works require the referral from medical social workers; if they will not, the reasons for that;
(5) of the total number of applications for home adaptation or modification works received by the HD in the past three years and, among such applications, the percentage of those which were not referred by medical social workers and the types of works involved; as it is learnt that the HD may, at the request of elderly PRH tenants, refer their cases to medical social workers of non-governmental organisations to obtain advice on home adaptation or modification works, of the percentage of the number of such referrals in the total number of applications for home adaptation or modification works in the past three years; and
(6) of the current percentage of the number of singleton or doubleton elderly PRH tenants in the total number of PRH tenants in Hong Kong and, among such elderly tenants, the number of those whose units have undergone home adaptation or modification works?
     Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Tang Ka-piu is as follows.
(1), (4) and (5) The Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) undertakes home modification/adaptation works in public rental housing (PRH) flats as requested by existing elderly or disabled tenants. The works generally include, where practicable, provision of a ramp at the entrance of flat, widening the doorway of bathroom, laying non-slip floor tiles on suitable floor surfaces, conversion of the bath tub into a shower area, installation of grab rails in the bathroom, raising the floor slab of the balcony to make it level with that of the living room, etc. If a tenant only requests for the provision of grab rails or installation of shower area in the bathroom, the HA can directly arrange the related works free of charge without obtaining advice from a physiotherapist (PT) or a doctor. For other home modification/adaptation works, in order to ensure that the works can meet the actual needs of individual tenants, the HA will seek advice from PTs or doctors with the tenant's consent. The HA has already put in place internal guidelines to assist frontline staff in handling the applications of these works. The HA does not maintain central records of applications of adaptation/home modification works.
     In addition, the HA will provide special allocation arrangement for people with special housing needs. If PRH applicants or their family members have non-temporary indoor dependence on wheelchair for mobility or are tetraplegia, the HA will arrange pre-offers of flats for them prior to the issue of offer letters so that they and their occupational therapist (OT)/PT may conduct flat visit to advise on home modification works suggestions and whether the flats are suitable for their living. This allows the flats be modified to cater for their needs in respect of their health condition and use of different types of wheelchairs. Subject to OT/PT's advice that the flat is fit for the prospective tenants' living, and that the home modifications works can be carried out according to their suggestions, the HA will issue offer letters formally. The HA will make corresponding arrangements in response to the proposals made by prospective PRH tenants before or during intake. If more time for the works is required, the HA may postpone the commencement date of the tenancy to a date after the completion of the works.
(2) The HA has provided various types of facilities and services to the elderly and disabled tenants living in the estates. In order to inform prospective tenants about the services provided by the HA, we will distribute various promotional brochures during intake, including the one entitled "Introduction to Services and Facilities for Persons with Disabilities". There is no need for the tenants to fill out application form when requesting for home modification/adaptation works in PRH flats. The HA will provide immediate and appropriate assistance to the tenants according to circumstances whenever a special request is received. Moreover, residents can learn about the various arrangements provided by the HA through its website.
(3) The HA is committed to improving the living qualities of residents in public housing development. In line with the Government's policy of "Ageing in Place", the HA also takes into account the needs of the elderly and other tenants with limited mobility in the design of public housing development, with a view to providing a safe and convenient living environment for them.
     To facilitate the activities of tenants, including the elderly and those with limited mobility in the shower areas, starting from 2020, the HA has installed grab bars in the shower area of the units in some newly completed public housing developments, for example, Fu Fai House of Fu Shan Estate in Wong Tai Sin; Choi Wo House of Choi Fook Estate in Kwun Tong; as well as Hong Tin House, Kin Tin House, Sum Tin House and Wing Tin House of Pak Tin Estate in Sham Shui Po. Grab bars have been installed in the shower areas of the units in all newly completed public housing developments since 2021.
(6) As at March 31, 2022, about 22 per cent of HA's PRH tenants in Hong Kong are all elderly members. The HA does not maintain a central record of the number of adaptation/home modification works carried out in units with all elderly members.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 13:00
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