LCQ19: Measures to support carers
It is learnt that the situations of "the elderly taking care of the elderly", "the elderly taking care of the disabled" and "the disabled taking care of the disabled" have become increasingly common in Hong Kong, but carers have for a long time received relatively little attention and support. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the designated 24-hour hotline for carers being set up by a non-governmental organisation commissioned by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) is expected to commence operation in the middle of this year at the earliest, of the number of professional social workers who will be on shift duty to answer calls at that time;
(2) given that the SWD plans to set up a one-stop information gateway for carers by the end of this year, apart from consolidating the information on existing services and community resources related to elderly persons and persons with disabilities, of the SWD's plans to enrich the content of the gateway in phases;
(3) given that the Chief Executive has indicated in the 2022 Policy Address that the Government will promote community-based peer support for carers, of the details of such support;
(4) whether it will study the introduction of a clear definition of "carers", and provide subsidies to them; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) as it is learnt that some overseas regions have enacted legislation to stipulate that eligible carers are entitled to a certain number of days of respite services each year (e.g. 60 days, 63 days and 84 days in Canada, Australia and Japan respectively), whether the Government has studied the provision of respite services to carers, so as to give them some breathing space; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
A consolidated reply to the Member's question is provided below:
(1) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) will commission a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to operate the Designated Hotline for Carer Support (DHCS) with an estimated annual expenditure of about $12 million. The DHCS is expected to be set up in the third quarter of 2023 to provide 24-hour service. As the DHCS will provide instant consultation, counselling, outreaching, emergency support and referral services, the service operator is required to employ professional social workers. The relevant details (including specific staffing establishment) are still under planning.
(2) The SWD will commission an organisation to develop a one-stop information gateway, covering information on existing services provided for elderly persons and persons with disabilities, caring skills, assessment tools for evaluating carers' needs and risk levels, and other community activities and resources for carers. The SWD plans to launch the information gateway in end-2023 and will enrich its content by phases. After the launch of the information gateway, the SWD will update its content timely with reference to feedback from carers and stakeholders.
(3) The SWD will launch a three-year publicity and public education campaign on carer support from 2023-24. District Social Welfare Offices of the SWD will, taking account of district characteristics, collaborate with NGOs providing elderly and rehabilitation services to jointly organise carer support activities and community-based peer support programmes for carers, with a view to encouraging carers to utilise available resources and district network as well as offering them practical assistance.
(4) The Government will regularise the Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Elderly Persons from Low-income Families and the Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Low-income Carers of Persons with Disabilities in October 2023 and increase the monthly allowance from $2,400 to $3,000. It is estimated that about 10 000 carers will be benefitted every year. The elderly persons/persons with disabilities being taken care of by the person applying for subsidy must be living in the community and currently waitlisted for subsidised long-term care services/specified services. The carer must be capable of taking up the care-giving role of the elderly persons/persons with disabilities, must not be a recipient of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, the Old Age Living Allowance or the Disability Allowance and the monthly household income must not exceed the specified limit.
(5) The SWD provides day respite and residential respite services for elderly persons and persons with disabilities to relieve the stress of carers and allow them to take short-term breaks or attend to other matters when required.
As at end-February 2023, the SWD provides about 240 day respite service places and about 330 residential respite service places for elderly persons, and about 170 day respite service places and about 390 residential respite service places for persons with disabilities. In addition, the Government provides home-based support services (including home respite service) for elderly persons and persons with disabilities through the Integrated Home Care Services (Frail Cases), the Enhanced Home and Community Care Services, the Home Care Service for Persons with Severe Disabilities and the Integrated Support Service for Persons with Severe Physical Disabilities.
To strengthen support for carers, the SWD will continue to increase day and residential respite service places. In 2022-23 and 2023-24, the SWD will provide about 30 additional day respite service places for elderly persons and a total of about 60 additional day and residential respite service places for persons with disabilities. The SWD will continue to provide additional day respite service places in the newly set up subsidised day care centres/units for the elderly, and provide additional respite service places in the newly set up District Support Centres for Persons with Disabilities, subvented residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) and RCHDs participating in the Bought Place Scheme for Private Residential Care Homes for Persons with Disabilities.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 11:06
Issued at HKT 11:06