The Government has an unswerving commitment to make Hong Kong a caring community with self-sufficiency, dignity, harmony and happiness. To ensure a sustainable social welfare system, the Government has implemented many new initiatives and redefined its core roles and functions. Major achievements include the strengthening of support for families in need; promotion of self-reliance among able-bodied recipients under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme; re-engineering of community services for elders; reform of the subventions system encompassing the Lump Sum Grant mode; and the reorganisation of the Social Welfare Department. These were geared towards improving the efficiency of service delivery to meet new and greater challenges in the planning and provision of welfare services.

HONG KONG cares for and supports those least able to take care of themselves. Through social welfare, the Government discharges its special social responsibilities of putting in place a well-resourced safety net to look after the physical and psychological well-being of the elderly, the infirm and the disabled and encouraging those in society with sufficient means to show concern for others in the community. The guiding principle in developing welfare services is to build a caring community in which there is self-sufficiency, dignity, harmony and happiness.

    The responsibility for formulating and carrying out government policies on social welfare rests with the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food and the Director of Social Welfare, respectively. It is based on the objectives set out in White Papers published in previous years and Policy Objective booklets issued at the time of the Chief Executive's Policy Address. Latest Policy Objective booklets included Welfare Services, Care for Elders and Promoting the Well-being and Interests of Women issued in October 2001.

    The Government is advised by the Social Welfare Advisory Committee on social welfare policy, the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee on matters of rehabilitation, and the Elderly Commission on services for the elders and the Women's Commission on a strategic overview of women's issues. Members of the above committees and commissions are appointed by the Chief Executive and their meetings are chaired by non-officials. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) maintains a close working partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which, with subventions provided by the Government, are the main providers of social welfare services.

    In 2002, expenditure on social welfare amounted to $31 billion: this included $21.5 billion (69.3 per cent) on financial assistance payments, $6.9 billion (22.3 per cent) on subventions, $0.4 billion (1.3 per cent) on contract services and $2.2 billion (7.1 per cent) on services provided by the SWD. Social welfare accounted for 14.4 per cent of the total recurrent public expenditure.