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LCQ22: Providing financial assistance to low-income physically handicapped persons
     Following is a question by the Hon Stanley Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):


     It has been reported that while persons with disabilities (PWDs) need to use various kinds of medical equipment or rehabilitation products, it is costly to buy, repair and maintain such equipment or products, and heavy financial burden is thus posed on low-income physically handicapped persons (PHPs) not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of PWDs (i) receiving CSSA, (ii) granted Normal Disability Allowance (NDA), and (iii) granted Higher Disability Allowance (HDA), in each of the past three years, with a breakdown by type of disability of the PWDs;

(2) as there are views pointing out that the current amounts of NDA and HDA are insufficient to cover the expenses on rehabilitation products of low-income PHPs not receiving CSSA, whether the Government will enhance the CSSA Scheme or substantially increase the amounts of these allowances, so as to alleviate the financial burden on these persons; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) as it is learnt that some low-income PHPs not receiving CSSA have difficulties in coping with the expenses on medical equipment or rehabilitation products, whether the Government will introduce "rehabilitation products vouchers" to provide appropriate assistance to these persons; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) of the number of cases of low-income PHPs not receiving CSSA that were handled by the Social Welfare Department and successfully referred to other relevant charity fund assistance programmes in each of the past three years, and what measures the Government has put in place to provide assistance to those whose cases have not been successfully referred?



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

(1) and (2) The Government implements a non-contributory multi-tiered social security system to provide suitable assistance for people with different needs. The system comprises the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme and the Social Security Allowance (SSA) Scheme (which includes the Old Age Living Allowance, Old Age Allowance, Disability Allowance (DA), Guangdong Scheme and Fujian Scheme).

     The non-means-tested DA aims to help persons assessed to have severe disabilities meet their special needs arising from disability. Applicants apply for the Normal or the Higher DA according to their severity of disability. At present, the monthly payment rates of the Normal and the Higher DA are $2,005 and $4,010 respectively.

     In addition, the CSSA Scheme aims to provide a safety net of last resort for those who cannot support themselves financially due to old age, ill-health, disability, single parenthood, unemployment, low-earnings or other reasons to help them meet their basic needs. The CSSA Scheme is means-tested to ensure that finite public resources are targeted towards catering for needy persons.

     Persons with disabilities in financial hardship may consider applying for the CSSA Scheme to meet their basic needs. Compared with able-bodied adults, recipients with disabilities under the CSSA Scheme are provided with higher standard rates (ranging from $3,820 to $7,400 per month depending on age, family conditions and severity of disability), as well as various types of supplements and special grants (e.g. grant to cover costs of medical, rehabilitation, surgical appliances and hygienic items) to cater for their special needs.

     Last December, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council gave approval for the Government to adjust upwards the CSSA standard payment rates and the SSA rates of allowances (including the DA) by 3.7 per cent with effect from February 1 this year, on the basis of the year-on-year rate of change of the Social Security Assistance Index of Prices in accordance with the established mechanism. The Government will continue to adjust the rates in accordance with the relevant mechanism to reflect price changes and maintain the purchasing power of the rates.

     The number of recipients of the CSSA, the Normal DA and the Higher DA with breakdown by types of disability in the past three years are given at Annex.

(3) To support persons with severe physical disabilities who need constant attention and care, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) launched the Integrated Support Service for Persons with Severe Physical Disabilities (ISS) in November 2014. The ISS provides cash subsidy, including "Special Subsidy for Renting Respiratory Support Medical Equipment (RSME)" and "Special Subsidy for Purchasing Medical Consumables Related to RSME", on actual reimbursement basis to eligible RSME dependents, assisting the low-income persons with disabilities who are not receiving the CSSA to meet the expenses of medical equipment and rehabilitation consumables. The ISS also provides assessments by physiotherapists and occupational therapists to ensure the rehabilitation items can suit the needs of service users.

     In addition, the Community Care Fund launched the "Special Care Subsidy for the Severely Disabled" in September 2011, which aims at providing persons with severe disabilities who are living in the community and not receiving the CSSA with a subsidy for purchasing care goods and services, or for other purposes related to nursing care. From October 2023, the Government will regularise the Special Care Subsidy and increase the monthly full grant from $2,000 to $2,500 in order to strengthen support to persons with severe disabilities in need.

     All of the above existing services/subsidies are to support persons with severe disabilities not receiving the CSSA. The Government has no plan to launch "Rehabilitation Products Voucher" at this stage.

(4) Rehabilitation service units and medical social workers under the SWD will co-operate with medical professionals to provide persons with disabilities and their families with emotional counselling, referrals to required services and community resources, and assist the persons with disabilities in need to apply for financial assistances, including charitable trust funds administered by the SWD or set up by other organisations. The SWD does not have record on the number of these cases by breakdown of physically handicapped persons not receiving the CSSA.
Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:05
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