LCQ11: Manpower of residential care homes

     Following is a question by the Hon Martin Liao and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     In order to alleviate the manpower shortage in residential care homes (RCHs) for the elderly and RCHs for persons with disabilities, the Government will launch a special scheme next year to allow such RCHs to import foreign workers to work as RCH care workers on an appropriate scale. Regarding the manpower of RCHs, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as it is learnt that at present, the qualifications for the care sector in Hong Kong and other regions are not mutually recognised, and care training programmes in various places are not exactly the same in terms of contents and the number of hours required, etc., how the Government ensures the service quality of those RCH care workers who are foreign workers, and whether it will review the arrangement for the mutual recognition of qualifications for the care sector in Hong Kong and other regions;

(2) given that as of April this year, nearly 20 per cent of the posts in the RCH care sector were vacant, and there are views pointing out that with a heavy workload and an unattractive remuneration, it is difficult for the sector to retain talents, how the Government will improve the development prospect for the sector and enhance its professionalism, so as to attract talents and raise the service quality of the sector; and

(3) given that the current waiting time for subsidised places in some types of RCHs for persons with disabilities is as long as more than a decade, whether the Government will increase manpower for such RCHs in a targeted manner, so that they will have sufficient manpower to make it possible to increase the number of places, thereby shortening the waiting time; if so, of the estimated number of places that can be increased and the waiting time that can be shortened; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:

(1) Care workers employed by residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) or residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) mainly provide personal care services for residents. The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance (Cap. 459), the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance (Cap. 613) and their subsidiary legislation do not stipulate any qualification requirements for care workers. There is hence no question of mutual recognition of qualifications for care workers in Hong Kong and other regions arising.

     However, to uphold the quality of staff of residential care homes (RCHs), the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has stipulated in the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) and the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities), issued respectively according to the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance and the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance, that RCH operators and managers should arrange continuous on-the-job training and supervision to staff (including local and imported care workers) so as to keep them abreast of the latest development of the nursing care skills for the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as the ways of handling their behavioural problems.

(2) The Government has over the years implemented various measures to increase the labour supply in the RCH sector:

(i) The SWD has implemented the Navigation Scheme for Young Persons in Care Services since July 2015 to encourage young people to join the elderly and rehabilitation care services. A total of 1 158 trainees were recruited in the first five years and, among them, 603 graduated and completed the two-year part-time diploma programme. The SWD enhanced the Navigation Scheme in 2020-21 and would provide a total of 1 200 training places within five years starting from the same year. A total of 993 trainees have been recruited so far;

(ii) Moreover, the Employees Retraining Board has introduced the "First-Hire-Then-Train" Scheme since 2015-16, and encouraged RCHs to offer job vacancies with more flexible working hours and leave arrangements, so as to attract new blood to join the sector;

(iii) As announced by the Chief Executive in the 2022 Policy Address, the Government will additionally subsidise more than 1 700 students to enrol in Enrolled Nurse training programmes in the coming five years. The pupil nurses will be required to work in the welfare sector for at least three years upon graduation. Together with the 200 training places per cohort currently subsidised by the SWD at the Hong Kong Metropolitan University, in the five years from 2023-24, the Government will subsidise more than 400 students aspiring to join the social welfare sector to enrol in Enrolled Nurse (General) training programmes per cohort; and

(iv) The Government will also conduct a holistic review of the skill and qualification requirements of RCHE and RCHD staff, in order to establish professional standards and a career progression path, with a view to enabling the RCH sector to attract and retain talents more effectively.

(3) To meet the increasing demand of persons with disabilities for residential services, the Government is taking forward 12 RCHD development projects, which are expected to provide an additional of about 1 800 residential service places from 2022-23 to 2026-27. The SWD will also purchase 296 additional places through the Bought Place Scheme for Private RCHDs in 2022-23 and 2023-24. When the SWD invites service operators to operate residential care services for persons with disabilities, recurrent subventions are calculated based on the notional staffing establishment corresponding to the number of service places to be provided. Under the Lump Sum Grant Subvention System, service operators have the flexibility to deploy the subventions and arrange suitable staffing to meet the requirements as set out in the Funding and Service Agreements.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:05