We are happy that the Government is aware of the special needs of single elderly people for socialising, and support the introduction of a special grant for social activities.
However, the grant's implementation procedure is contradictory to the spirit intended.
First of all, the Government should recognise that the existing standard of living for the elderly is inadequate to meet their social needs - hence the special grant. We thus see no point in providing this grant on a reimbursement basis.
Secondly, only those social activities organised by non-governmental organisations are recognised for reimbursement, and travelling expenses incurred by elderly people joining these activities are not covered. Elderly people's choice in the activities they participate in is thus not being respected.
Furthermore, the method of reimbursement is not cost effective. Additional administrative costs will be incurred both by staff of the Social Welfare Department field units and the NGOs which may need to make special arrangements for reimbursement. It also places an unnecessary burden on the elderly to complete reimbursement requirements.
The grant is an improvement in the CSSA scheme to cater to the social needs of the elderly. However, to make it attractive to them we recommend it be made as a one-off grant in the same manner as the one given at Lunar New Year.
HUI YIN-FAT Hong Kong Council of Social Service