Pressure on dole cheats with assets in Guangdong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:00am

The Social Welfare Department wants to crack down on dole recipients who own valuable properties across the border.

The department was trying to co-ordinate with land registry departments in Guangdong to identify Hongkongers who relied on welfare but had assets above the legal limit.

'We realise that there are difficulties in collecting information from the mainland' as it is so big, said Davis Chan, senior social security officer for special investigation. 'It may not be easy to trace records from Guangdong, which is also a big province.'

Mr Chan said the department had recently received reports about two families on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance with land in Guangdong exceeding the asset limit. He said the cases were reported to police for investigation.

The department has a regular matching mechanism with nine other departments, including the Lands Registry and Company Registry, to cross-check for abuses of the system.

Meanwhile, legislators yesterday called for elderly people to be charged half price for treatments at public hospitals and clinics. The call was initiated by democrat Frederick Fung Kin-kee during the Legco welfare panel.

Mr Fung said a 50 per cent discount should automatically be given - without a means test - to all residents 65 and older.

Under the present system, welfare recipients do not pay in public hospitals and clinics. People who are not on the dole may apply for a waiver after passing a means test which, Mr Fung said, was so complicated it deterred elderly people from applying.

The panel's deputy chairman, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, supported the plan, saying many elderly people not on the dole might still not be able to afford the charges.

In-patient service is $100 a day and out-patient services between $60 and $100.

But Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Salina Yan told the panel such a discount would have an enormous impact on the government's budget, although she pledged her bureau would discuss the suggestion.