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LCQ21: Support for persons with disabilities
     Following is a question by the Hon Doreen Kong and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):


     Recently, a member of the public has relayed to me the issues concerning the rights and interests of persons with disabilities (PWDs) during the COVID-19 epidemic. A family member of this member of the public is a moderately mentally handicapped person with autism and is in great need of adequate emotional support from family members or carers of residential care homes (RCHs) in daily life. Earlier on, this family member was sent to the temporary quarantine centre at the AsiaWorld-Expo for isolation as someone in the RCH where she lived had been confirmed to have been infected, but the temporary quarantine centre had refused to allow any RCH staff or family members to visit this person. Moreover, it is learnt that the premises of the ex-Salvation Army Sam Shing Chuen Lau Ng Ying Primary School, which were originally planned to be converted into a school for children with intellectual disability, have now been converted for use as transitional housing. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) among the persons who need to be isolated due to the epidemic at present, of the number of those who have a history of mental disorders and require special care;

(2) whether measures are in place to help autistic persons under isolation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it has studied allowing RCH staff or co-living family members who have care experience to assist in taking care of the PWDs who are required to be isolated; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(4) of the reasons for the authorities being unable to convert the aforesaid school premises with comprehensive facilities into a school for children with intellectual disability; the current numbers of RCHs and special schools for PWDs (with a breakdown by District Council district), the number of persons who are waiting for RCH places, as well as the details of the plan to construct subsidised RCHs and special schools for PWDs in the coming five years?



     In consultation with the Education Bureau (EDB), a consolidated reply to the Member's question is provided below:

(1) According to the latest arrangements, for residents confirmed with COVID-19 and with mild symptoms or asymptomatic, if they have received three vaccine doses or above, they will be arranged to stay and receive care in residential care homes with appropriate treatment and support provided by healthcare staff of the Hospital Authority; while those who have received less than three vaccine doses will be transferred to holding centres (HCs). As regards residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs), residents confirmed with COVID-19 who have received less than three vaccine doses and are showing mild symptoms or asymptomatic will be transferred to the HC set up in AsiaWorld-Expo (AWE). Taking January 6, 2023, as an example, the total number of persons staying in AWEHC for isolation was 628; among them, 400 (around 64 per cent) were RCHD residents. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) does not keep statistics on whether the persons being transferred to AWEHC have mental health needs. However, the SWD will, before arranging RCHD residents for admission, contact the RCHDs concerned to understand the residents' conditions and map out appropriate care plans for the care teams' reference in the HCs. Please refer to part (2) of this reply for details.

(2) Before arranging RCHD residents (whether they have autism or not) for admission to the HC, the SWD staff will contact the RCHDs concerned to understand the residents' conditions, including their emotional and behavioural characteristics, habits and preferences, and map out appropriate care plans with the RCHDs concerned in handling the residents' behavioural issues and emotional needs. Such information and care plans will be passed to the care teams in the HCs for reference. The care teams will also arrange residents from the same RCHD to stay in the same area of the HC so as to alleviate their anxiety caused by an unfamiliar environment.

     Besides, the SWD has suggested to RCHDs arranging their residents to bring their cell phones or tablets to the HCs. Care teams will arrange video conferencing for the residents with their families and RCHD staff so as to provide psychological support for the residents. Where necessary, social workers of the care teams will also render counselling to the residents.

(3) Operation of the HCs must meet the strict infection control requirements of the Department of Health. Care workers of the care teams have to complete related training and pass an assessment before they can take up the caring duties in the HCs. To ensure the safety of residents and for the sake of public health, the SWD will not arrange RCHD staff and family members to stay in the HCs.

(4) According to the information provided by the EDB, the planning of special schools is based on the overall demand of the territory. To meet the needs of students, the EDB has all along been reviewing and planning new special schools, and reprovisioning or redeveloping existing special schools in accordance with the established mechanism. In the 2022/23 school year, there are 62 aided special schools in Hong Kong (breakdown by district set out below); among them, 43 are for children with intellectual disabilities. The overall supply of boarding places for different types of special schools is sufficient to meet the demand, except for schools for children with moderate intellectual disabilities. At present, there are about 100 students waiting for boarding service of schools for children with moderate intellectual disabilities. In the coming five years, the EDB will continue to build two schools for children with intellectual disabilities in Kowloon region according to the existing plan, one of which consisting a boarding section. Upon completion of the new school premises, the demand for boarding places for children with moderate intellectual disabilities will be alleviated.

     The EDB has once planned to use the school premises of an ex-primary school in Tuen Mun district for redevelopment into a special school for children with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities with a boarding section. Subsequently, upon consideration of options available, the EDB has decided to carry out addition and conversion works in some existing special schools so that students in need can study in special schools the soonest possible and the use of public resources can be optimised. Upon completion of the respective projects, the supply of school places for children with intellectual disabilities in the district has increased progressively.
District Number of special schools (Note)
Central and Western -
Eastern 3
Islands 1
Southern 6
Wan Chai 2
Kowloon City 3
Kwun Tong 5
Sai Kung 3
Sham Shui Po 7
Wong Tai Sin 3
Yau Tsim Mong 1
North 2
Sha Tin 5
Tai Po 4
Kwai Tsing 6
Tsuen Wan -
Tuen Mun 5
Yuen Long 5
Note: The number does not include the Hospital School that operates classes in 19 public hospitals and provides educational services for hospitalised students.

     Regarding RCHDs, the number of subsidised RCHDs by administrative district of the SWD is set out in Table 1, while the number of persons waitlisting for various types of subsidised RCHD is set out in Table 2:

Table 1: Number of subsidised RCHDs (by the SWD's administrative district) (as at November 30, 2022)
District Number of subsidised RCHDs
Central Western, Southern and Islands 40
Eastern and Wan Chai 14
Kwun Tong 28
Wong Tai Sin and Sai Kung 29
Kowloon City and Yau Tsim Mong 14
Sham Shui Po 22
Sha Tin 25
Tai Po and North 21
Yuen Long 20
Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing 31
Tuen Mun 29
Total 273

Table 2: Number of persons waitlisted for various types of subsidised RCHDs (as at November 30, 2022)
Type of RCHD Number of waitlisted persons
Hostel for Moderately Mentally Handicapped Persons 2 755
Hostel for Severely Mentally Handicapped Persons 2 393
Hostel for Severely Physically Handicapped Persons 339
Care and Attention Home for Severely Disabled Persons 459
Care and Attention Home for the Aged Blind 22
Small Group Home for Mildly Mentally Handicapped Children (including Integrated Small Group Home serving also mildly mentally handicapped children) 107
Supported Hostel 2 317
Halfway House 454
Long Stay Care Home 2 499
Total 11 345
     To meet the increasing demand of persons with disabilities for residential services, the Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to identify suitable sites and premises for RCHDs. In the next five years, it is expected that about 1 800 additional residential places could be provided.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:12
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