LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 1
OFFICIAL RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Wednesday, 26 February 1997
The Council met at half-past Two o'clock
THE HONOURABLE ANDREW WONG WANG-FAT, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE ALLEN LEE PENG-FEI, C.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE MRS SELINA CHOW LIANG SHUK-YEE, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE MARTIN LEE CHU-MING, Q.C., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE SZETO WAH
THE HONOURABLE EDWARD HO SING-TIN, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE RONALD JOSEPH ARCULLI, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE MRS MIRIAM LAU KIN-YEE, O.B.E., J.P.
DR THE HONOURABLE EDWARD LEONG CHE-HUNG, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE ALBERT CHAN WAI-YIP
THE HONOURABLE CHEUNG MAN-KWONG
THE HONOURABLE CHIM PUI-CHUNG
THE HONOURABLE MICHAEL HO MUN-KA
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 2
DR THE HONOURABLE HUANG CHEN-YA, M.B.E.
THE HONOURABLE EMILY LAU WAI-HING
THE HONOURABLE LEE WING-TAT
THE HONOURABLE ERIC LI KA-CHEUNG, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE FRED LI WAH-MING
THE HONOURABLE HENRY TANG YING-YEN, J.P.
THE HONOURABLE JAMES TO KUN-SUN
DR THE HONOURABLE SAMUEL WONG PING-WAI, O.B.E., F.Eng., J.P.
DR THE HONOURABLE PHILIP WONG YU-HONG
DR THE HONOURABLE YEUNG SUM
THE HONOURABLE ZACHARY WONG WAI-YIN
THE HONOURABLE CHRISTINE LOH KUNG-WAI
THE HONOURABLE JAMES TIEN PEI-CHUN, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE LEE CHEUK-YAN
THE HONOURABLE CHAN KAM-LAM
THE HONOURABLE CHAN WING-CHAN
THE HONOURABLE CHAN YUEN-HAN
THE HONOURABLE ANDREW CHENG KAR-FOO
THE HONOURABLE CHENG YIU-TONG
DR THE HONOURABLE ANTHONY CHEUNG BING-LEUNG
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 3
THE HONOURABLE CHEUNG HON-CHUNG
THE HONOURABLE CHOY KAN-PUI, J.P.
THE HONOURABLE DAVID CHU YU-LIN
THE HONOURABLE ALBERT HO CHUN-YAN
THE HONOURABLE IP KWOK-HIM
THE HONOURABLE LAU CHIN-SHEK
THE HONOURABLE AMBROSE LAU HON-CHUEN, J.P.
THE HONOURABLE LAW CHI-KWONG
THE HONOURABLE LEE KAI-MING
THE HONOURABLE LEUNG YIU-CHUNG
THE HONOURABLE BRUCE LIU SING-LEE
THE HONOURABLE LO SUK-CHING
THE HONOURABLE MARGARET NG
THE HONOURABLE NGAN KAM-CHUEN
THE HONOURABLE SIN CHUNG-KAI
THE HONOURABLE TSANG KIN-SHING
DR THE HONOURABLE JOHN TSE WING-LING
THE HONOURABLE MRS ELIZABETH WONG CHIEN CHI-LIEN, C.B.E.,
THE HONOURABLE LAWRENCE YUM SIN-LING
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 4
DR THE HONOURABLE DAVID LI KWOK-PO, O.B.E., LL.D. (CANTAB),
THE HONOURABLE NGAI SHIU-KIT, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE LAU WONG-FAT, O.B.E., J.P.
THE HONOURABLE FREDERICK FUNG KIN-KEE
THE HONOURABLE HOWARD YOUNG, J.P.
THE HONOURABLE PAUL CHENG MING-FUN
DR THE HONOURABLE LAW CHEUNG-KWOK
THE HONOURABLE MOK YING-FAN
PUBLIC OFFICERS ATTENDING
THE HONOURABLE MRS ANSON CHAN, C.B.E., J.P. CHIEF SECRETARY
THE HONOURABLE DONALD TSANG YAM-KUEN, O.B.E., J.P. FINANCIAL SECRETARY
THE HONOURABLE JEREMY FELL MATHEWS, C.M.G., J.P. ATTORNEY GENERAL
MR MICHAEL SUEN MING-YEUNG, C.B.E., J.P. SECRETARY FOR HOME AFFAIRS
MR DOMINIC WONG SHING-WAH, O.B.E., J.P. SECRETARY FOR HOUSING
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 5
MRS KATHERINE FOK LO SHIU-CHING, O.B.E., J.P. SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE
MR JOSEPH WONG WING-PING, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR EDUCATION AND MANPOWER
MR PETER LAI HING-LING, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR SECURITY
MISS DENISE YUE CHUNG-YEE, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY
MR PAUL LEUNG SAI-WAH, J.P.
SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT
CLERKS IN ATTENDANCE
MR RICKY FUNG CHOI-CHEUNG, SECRETARY GENERAL
MRS JUSTINA LAM CHENG BO-LING, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL
MR RAY CHAN YUM-MOU, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 6
The following papers were laid on the table pursuant to Standing Order 14(2):
Subsidiary Legislation L.N. No.
Specification of Public Office ............................................ 67/97
Motor Vehicles (First Registration Tax)
Amendment) Ordinance 1997 (11 of 1997)
Commencement) Notice 1997 .................................. 68/97
Sessional Papers 1996-97
No. 68 Trustee's Report on the Administration of the Education ?
Scholarships Fund and the Audited Statement of Accounts
together with the Director of Audit's Report for the year
ended 31 August 1996
No. 69 Occupational Deafness Compensation Board ?
Annual Report 1995/96
No. 70 The Legislative Council Commission ?
Annual Report 1995-1996
TRIBUTE TO THE LATE MR DENG XIAOPING
PRESIDENT (in Cantonese): Honourable Members, before we proceed to this afternoon's business, we will observe one minute's silence in memory of Mr DENG
Xiaoping. May I ask all to stand.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 7
ORAL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme
1. MR DAVID CHU asked: Mr President, the findings of the surveys
conducted by community organizations indicate that many of the 500 000 people living in abject poverty in the territory are unaware of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme. Will the Government inform this Council of the measures being taken to facilitate those least able to help themselves to come forward to apply for assistance under the CSSA Scheme?
SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Mr President,
the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme seeks to provide assistance to those financially vulnerable members of our community, regardless of their sex, age or background, to enable recipients to meet their basic and special needs.
While we do not accept the methodologies of the surveys referred to in the Question and the conclusion that there are 500 000 people living in abject poverty, we acknowledge that there is a continuing need to publicize the CSSA Scheme and to make it more readily accessible. We have over the years adopted a four-pronged approach to facilitate the needy, especially those least able to help themselves, to come forward to apply for assistance under the CSSA Scheme.
First, we have stepped up publicity to help the general public, in particular applicants and recipients, to acquire a better understanding of the assistance available:
(a) Since November 1996, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) staff
have regularly gone on phone-in programmes about the CSSA
Scheme on Radio Hong Kong. The most recent occasion was "The
Hong Kong Spirit" on 9 and 10 January 1997 when questions from 26
dial-in callers were answered;
(b) Starting on 25 February this year, an Announcement of Public Interest
(API) will be broadcast regularly on every radio channel. The SWD
will also be producing an API to be broadcast on the television
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(c) Various information pamphlets on the Scheme are widely available
both directly to the public at the Social Security Field Unit (SSFU),
other service units of the SWD, District Offices of Home Affairs
Department, the Local Employment Service of the Labour
Department and for distribution through non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and concern groups. Improvements to make
these publicity materials more user friendly are in progress;
(d) Taped messages on the Scheme (in Cantonese, Putonghua and
English) have been placed on our interactive 24-hour telephone
hotline to assist enquirers; and
(e) A video tape (Cantonese and Putonghua with Chinese subtitles and
sign language) on the Scheme is played regularly at SSFUs. We
have just completed production of another video tape which provides
explanations of various special grants available under the Scheme.
These tapes are made available to NGOs.
Second, we are aware that some members of our community might feel inhibited from coming forward because of a possible stigma attached to obtaining public assistance. We have therefore requested our frontline staff in various service units of the SWD to be empathetic, tactful and flexible and to impart a proper perspective on the CSSA to their clients. In this connection, we have introduced various measures, including training for staff and improved staffing levels so that the staff are better equipped and can spend more time with their clients for each application. Our front-line staff also make special efforts to render assistance to disabled applicants. In addition, a pilot Customer Liaison Group on social security services has been set up to gather feedback on our services.
As NGOs have close contacts with the public, we have enlisted their support. Their social workers would, where appropriate, take the opportunity to introduce the Scheme to their clients, in particular to new immigrants, single parents and elderly persons. To this end, our social security staff organize regular briefings to NGOs to explain the CSSA Scheme to their staff as well as their clients.
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But we believe more can be done on this front. To promote a better understanding among social workers and other professionals in the field about the social security schemes, we have invited tertiary institutions to consider how social security systems might be included into the general social work curriculum and to consider how workers in the field can be better briefed on the schemes. The aim is to ensure that professional social workers coming into contact with the needy would be in a position to give basic advice to their clients about social security matters.
Third, we seek to make the CSSA more readily accessible by simplifying the procedures and improving service delivery.
Fourth, we seek to ensure that assistance is available expeditiously. A computerization feasibility study is in progress on the upgrading of our existing computer system to expedite the processing of applications.
Over the past four years, the number of CSSA cases has increased by 100% from about 80 000 in December 1992 to 160 000 by December 1996. Over the past two years, the rate of increase in the caseload has been about 2% per month. This substantial increase is partly attributable to our efforts to publicize the Scheme. Currently over 223 000 persons or 3.5% of the population in Hong Kong are receiving the CSSA.
In response to public concern that there might still be substantial numbers of low income individuals and families who are eligible for the CSSA but do not apply for it, we are considering commissioning research with a view to finding out the socio-economic characteristics of these people and their reasons for not applying for the CSSA so that we could better tailor our efforts to bring those genuinely in need into the CSSA safety net.
Thank you, Mr President.
MR DAVID CHU: I would like to commend the Secretary and the Government
for the fine work they are doing in this area. This is why I ask the question in the first place.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL — 26 February 1997 10
Because of the additional promotion and the resultant higher request for assistance, have future government budgets considered this additional application for CSSA especially in the 1996-97 (sic) Budget?
SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Mr President,
we make funding applications to the Legislative Council each year for the following year on the basis of the statistics we obtain from previous experience. However, we have to seek additional funds from the Legislative Council each year to cope with the increase in caseload and adjustment to CSSA payments. Such applications for additional funding each year have always been approved by the Legislative Council.
MR LEE KAI-MING (in Cantonese): Mr President, the Secretary for Health
and Welfare has mentioned in the second paragraph of her reply to Mr David CHU that she disagrees with the findings of the surveys which indicate that 500 000 people are living in abject poverty in Hong Kong. I would like to ask the Secretary for Health and Welfare the number of people actually living in abject poverty in the territory.
SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND WELFARE (in Cantonese): Mr President,
poverty has been the subject of many debates in this Council and we have not adopted any definition for a poverty line. The main purpose of the CSSA is to provide assistance to those who are in financial difficulties. The needs and circumstances vary from one family to another and so the needs of each family must be taken into account when we provide assistance to it. Therefore, we do not make a one-off or uniform payment to every applicant under our scheme. The circumstances of each family may be different in respect of, for example, the number of family members or children, or other needs such as taking care of family members who are disabled, suffering from chronic diseases or elderly. Their housing problems may also vary. For example, rents for public housing are different from those for private housing. Hence we have to apply the CSSA scheme to suit the needs of individual families.