Hong Kong 2006
Chapter 10:
Social Welfare
Major Achievements
Social Welfare Programmes
Clinical Psychological Services
Voluntary Work
Subventions and Service Monitoring
Information Technology
Enhancing Social Capital: Community Investment and Inclusion Fund
Women's Commission
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Social Welfare Programmes

Family and Child Welfare

To preserve and strengthen family unity and harmony, a comprehensive range of family and child welfare services is provided by the SWD and NGOs.

Services for Families

The SWD adopts a three-pronged approach to providing services to families in need or in trouble.

At the primary level, problems can be prevented by early detection, education, publicity, and empowerment. During the year, the department allocated resources for running a publicity campaign, called 'Strengthening Families and Combating Violence' at both central and district levels. The department also set up a telephone hotline for people to obtain information, counselling and other help.

At the secondary level, a range of support services, from developmental programmes to intensive counselling, was provided in 2006 by 61 Integrated Family Service Centres across Hong Kong and two NGO-run Integrated Services Centres serving specific areas in Tung Chung and other parts of Lantau Island.

At the tertiary level, specialised services and crisis intervention are provided if domestic violence or family crisis is involved.

Services for Children

The SWD provides a wide range of child welfare services. These include services for children and young people who need care or protection because of family crises or their behavioural or emotional problems. Twenty-four additional places were created in children residential services for these children in 2006, bringing the number of such places to 3 424 of which 950 are in the foster homes, 879 in small group homes, 207 in child care centres and 1 388 in young boys' and girls' homes and hostels.

The SWD also arranges adoptions for children abandoned by their parents or whose parents are unable to support them. The Adoption (Amendment) Ordinance 2004, together with the related subsidiary legislation, took effect on January 25, 2006. The International Social Service Hong Kong Branch and Mother's Choice Limited were recognised as authorised agencies for making arrangements for adoption of Hong Kong children by adoptive parents overseas.

At year's end, there were 13 aided stand-alone child care centres with room for 686 children. Child care centres and kindergarten-cum-child care centres continued to provide full day care services and further support for families through the provision of 499 occasional child care places and 1 244 extended-hour places.

Social Security

The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme and the Social Security Allowance (SSA) Scheme form the mainstay of Hong Kong's social security system. They are supplemented by three accident compensation schemes, namely, the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme, the Traffic Accident Victims Assistance Scheme and Emergency Relief. There are 37 Social Security Field Units and two centralised offices administering these schemes across Hong Kong.

The CSSA Scheme

The CSSA Scheme is non-contributory but means-tested. The scheme provides cash assistance to people suffering from financial hardship to enable them to meet basic needs. Applicants must satisfy the stipulated residence requirements. At year's end, there were 295 333 CSSA cases providing assistance to 521 611 people, compared with 298 011 cases and 539 963 people in 2005. The scheme's total expenditure in 2006 amounted to $17.62 billion, representing a decrease of 0.5 per cent over the previous year.

Elderly people who have received CSSA for no less than one year are allowed under the Portable CSSA Scheme to continue receiving assistance in Guangdong or Fujian should they choose to retire there.

Intensified Support for Self-reliance Measures

The SWD continued to help able-bodied, but unemployed, CSSA recipients and other socially disadvantaged groups under the Support for Self-reliance Scheme during the year. In October, the department commissioned NGOs to launch the fourth batch of 40 Intensive Employment Assistance Projects, the My STEP (Special Training and Enhancement Programme) Project and the District Employment Assistance Trial Projects to provide tailor-made employment assistance to those CSSA recipients who are able to work but were jobless.

The SSA Scheme

The non-contributory SSA Scheme provides allowances to meet the special needs of the severely disabled and elderly people. It comprises Normal Disability Allowance, Higher Disability Allowance, Normal Old Age Allowance and Higher Old Age Allowance. At year's end, 580 840 people were receiving SSA, compared with 572 771 in 2005. The scheme's total expenditure during the year was $5.42 billion, an increase of 2.1 per cent over the previous year.

Accident Compensation Schemes

The Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme offers ex gratia payments on a non-means-tested basis to innocent people injured or killed in crimes of violence or by law enforcement officers while combatting crime. In the event that a person is killed under such circumstances, payment will be given to his or her dependants. In 2006, $6.41 million was paid out under the scheme, compared to $10.58 million in the previous year. The Traffic Accident Victims Assistance (TAVA) Scheme provides quick financial assistance for people injured or for dependants of those killed in road traffic accidents on a non-means-tested basis regardless of who is responsible for the accident. During the year, $159.50 million was paid out under the scheme, compared with $156.64 million in 2005.

Emergency Relief

Emergency relief in the form of meals or cash-in-lieu of meals and other necessities is given to victims of natural and other disasters. Grants from the Emergency Relief Fund are paid to eligible victims or to their dependants in cases of death. Emergency relief was given to 495 victims of 17 disasters during the year.

Social Security Appeal Board

The Social Security Appeal Board considers appeals against SWD's decisions on CSSA, SSA and TAVA issues. The board ruled on 313 appeals during the year.

Services for the Elderly

The Government encourages and assists elderly people to lead active and healthy lives. It provides a range of home-based and centre-based care services to enable elders to continue living in places and environments with which they are familiar. Elders who need long-term care but cannot be adequately taken care of at home may apply for residential care services subsidised by the Government.

The SWD continued to subsidise the Opportunities for the Elderly Project run by community organisations to make home life a little more comfortable for elderly people. During the year, 271 programmes were subsidised by government grants amounting to $2.7 million.

Over the years, more than 1 million Senior Citizen Cards had been issued to elderly people in Hong Kong with which elders can obtain concessions, discounts and priority service at 14 534 outlets belonging to 8 081 companies, organisations and government departments.

Community Care and Support Services

At year-end, there were 214 centres for the elderly (including district community centres, neighbourhood centres and social centres), 120 elderly services teams (including integrated home care service teams, enhanced home and community care service teams, support teams for the elderly and a home help team), 51 day care centres or units for the elderly, and one holiday centre for the elderly. Support is also provided for their carers.

Residential Care Services

Subsidised residential care places for the elderly totalled 26 425 by the end of the year, including 6 258 subsidised self-care hostel places and home-for-the-aged places, 12 122 subsidised care-and-attention places, 1 864 subsidised nursing places and 6 181 purchased places in private residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs).

To meet the growing care needs of the elderly, the SWD commenced in June 2005 a programme of converting in phases self-care hostel and home-for-the-aged places into care-and-attention places to provide a continuum of care. At year-end, a total of 1 220 care-and-attention places with continuum of care were created through the conversion programme.

The Government is committed to enhancing the quality of RCHEs. The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance and its subsidiary regulation provide for the regulation of RCHEs through a licensing system. As the licensing authority, SWD is responsible for licensing control, capacity-building and monitoring and enforcement. In order to enhance the inspection and monitoring of RCHEs, the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for the Elderly (LORCHE) under the SWD has strengthened the manpower of the Health Inspectorate Team in 2006. It also plans to increase the manpower of the Social Work Inspectorate Team in the coming year. To enhance RCHEs' drug management capability, the SWD and the Department of Health produced a manual on drug management.

Rehabilitation Services

With the objective of integrating people with disabilities into society and helping them to develop fully their capabilities, government departments and NGOs provide a variety of rehabilitation services to meet their different needs. These services are coordinated by the Commissioner for Rehabilitation on the advice of the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee.

Services for Children with Disabilities

At year's end, there were 1 860 integrated programme places in ordinary kindergarten-cum-child care centres, 1 371 special child care centre places, including 110 residential places, and 1 957 early education and training centre places for these children before they enter school. In addition, 56 places in small group homes were also provided for mildly mentally handicapped children who cannot be adequately cared for by their families.

Services for Adults with Disabilities

In 2006, 1 655 'supported employment' places were provided for people with disabilities to work in open settings with support and assistance. In addition, 432 places under the On-the-Job Training Programme for People with Disabilities and 311 places for young people with disabilities or early signs of mental illness under the Sunnyway programme were made available to handicapped people looking for jobs. Those not yet ready to compete for jobs in the open market were given accommodation in sheltered workshop where 5 258 places are provided.

The 453 places in integrated vocational training centres and 3 146 places in integrated vocational rehabilitation services centres, were set up to provide a spectrum of integrated and seamless vocational training and rehabilitation services. Funding was approved for 20 NGOs under the 'Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprises' project to set up small businesses that can employ people with disabilities. Forty such businesses were created which provided jobs for about 500 people with disabilities and those who would have difficulty competing for jobs in the open market. The Marketing Consultancy Office (Rehabilitation) assists vocational rehabilitation services units to develop their marketing and business strategies and employment-aided services.

In 2006, there were 4 319 places in day activity centres where mentally handicapped people were taught how to live their lives more independently. There were also 230 places in training and activity centres to help former mental patients readjust to normal daily life.

In 2006, there were 6 269 places in hostel and care home, and 289 places in public-funded hostels for people with disabilities who lack adequate skills to live independently in the community or whose families cannot care for them adequately. Elderly blind people were provided with 825 places in care-and-attention homes. For former mental patients and discharged chronic mental patients, there were 1 509 places in halfway houses and 1 407 in long stay care homes.

Professional Back-up and Support Services

Back-up services provided by clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists are available to people with disabilities in rehabilitation day centres and hostels. Speech therapy service is also available to children attending pre-school rehabilitation centres. In addition, there are other support services, including home-based training and support services for people with mental handicaps or physical disabilities, community mental health care services and after-care service for those discharged from halfway houses, and rehabilitation services for people with visceral disability or chronic illnesses. Residential respite service for adults with disabilities, occasional child care service for pre-schoolers with disabilities and six parents' resource centres are also available. There were five social clubs for ex-mentally ill people and 17 social and recreational centres for people with other disabilities to encourage them to participate in community leisure activities.

Medical Social Services

Medical social workers are stationed in public hospitals and some specialist clinics to help patients and their families with psychosocial problems. Such patients are given counselling, financial and other tangible assistance, and referral to rehabilitation and support services in the community to help them recover and reintegrate into society. During the year, medical social workers dealt with 167 185 such cases.

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Community Support Project provides early identification and intervention services to children and adolescents aged between six and 18 living in the community with early signs of emotional or mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Set up in April, five project teams collaborated with the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry teams of the Hospital Authority to provide psychosocial educational programmes, consultation services, networking with community support services, as well as direct case intervention.

The SWD administers the trust fund for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The fund was established to provide special ex gratia relief payment or financial assistance for SARS patients or families affected by SARS. By year-end, 1 118 applications had been received relating to 320 deceased cases and 798 patients who had recovered from the disease or who were suspected of having it. Of these, 887 applications were approved, involving $135 million. Additional resources would be injected into the fund in January 2007 to provide continued support for SARS patients who are still dysfunctional.

Services for Offenders

Under related ordinances, the department discharges statutory functions and provides community-based and residential services to help people who have committed crimes to reintegrate into the community and become law-abiding citizens.

The probation service helped 2 468 offenders during the year. Probation officers assess and report to the courts on the offenders' suitability for probation supervision while monitoring their compliance with probation orders. The officers also prepare reports on long-term prisoners and petitioners for consideration of early release.

During the year, 1 673 offenders aged 14 or above who were convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment were placed on Community Service Orders requiring them to perform unpaid community work arranged and supervised by SWD officers. Six residential homes, with 380 places, provide educational, prevocational and character training for juvenile offenders as well as children and young people with behavioural and/or family problems. The six homes are being located under a single roof and the move is expected to be completed by August 2007.

The Young Offender Assessment Panel, jointly operated by the Correctional Services Department (CSD) and the SWD, provides the courts with coordinated professional views on sentencing options for offenders aged between 14 and 24. The Post-Release Supervision of Prisoners Scheme, another joint service of the SWD and the CSD, assisted 434 discharged prisoners during their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community in 2006. An NGO is subvented to provide hostel and supportive services for ex-offenders.

Services for Young People

The overall objective of welfare services for young people is to help those aged between six and 24 develop into mature, responsible and contributing members of society through a range of preventive, supportive and remedial services.

To address the changing needs of young people in an integrated and holistic manner, 133 Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres (ICYSCs) provide children and youth centre services, outreach social work services, school social work services and, where possible, family life education. Eighteen of the ICYSCs also provide Overnight Outreach Services for young night drifters.

At year-end, 492 secondary schools were each provided with a school social worker to identify and help students with academic, social and emotional problems, to maximise their educational opportunities and to develop their potential. Sixteen District Youth Outreaching Social Work Teams provided services to high-risk youths and dealt with juvenile gang issues.

Funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, PATHS to Adulthood, a Jockey Club Youth Enhancement Scheme, was in full operation in the 2006-07 school year, after a year of trial. The four-year project is designed to promote the holistic development of junior secondary students into responsible young adults. A total of 230 secondary schools joined the scheme.

Six teams were formed under the Community Support Service Scheme (CSSS) to counsel young people who have broken the law or are at risk of doing so. The Family Conference Scheme, jointly run by the SWD and the Hong Kong Police Force, assists juveniles cautioned under the Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme. Social workers, police officers, teachers and the parents of these young people work together to decide on appropriate treatment plans.

The SWD adopts a varied approach to providing drug treatment and rehabilitation services for young drug abusers. At year-end, the department had subvented 14 voluntary Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres (DTRCs)/halfway houses, five counselling centres for psychotropic substance abusers and two social clubs for ex-drug abusers. Under the Drug Dependent Persons Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres (Licensing) Ordinance, 28 certificates of exemption and 11 licences for DTRCs were issued or renewed by the end of 2006.

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