Long wait for mentally disabled

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am

Severely mentally challenged people have to wait 10 years for institutional care, a parents' concern group has found.

The Social Welfare Department's March figures show the government is now providing 2,889 beds in hostels for severely mentally handicapped people, and 765 beds in care and attention homes for the severely disabled.

But the Association of Parents of the Severely Mentally Handicapped said the waiting time for the hostels had increased steadily to 10 years in December last year from seven years in March 2002. As of December, 1,844 people were still waiting to get in, up from 1,772 in March 2002.

Meanwhile, the waiting period for the government's care and attention homes also rose drastically from one year in March 2002 to seven years in December last year. But the department said the average waiting time for 2006-07 was just three years.

There were 377 people lining up for vacancies as of December, compared with 274 in March 2002.

'The number of new beds provided by the government is uneven every year,' said the group's chairwoman, Cheng Yee-man.

She also said the government had not fully realised the quotas proposed in its budgets. The 2001-07 budgets show it would provide an extra 858 beds in the hostels. But the actual increase was 595.

Ms Cheng called on the government to keep its promise and shorten the waiting time to five years.

Mother of four Mrs Li, whose eldest son, 23, is severely mentally disabled, said her son had already been waiting for eight years to get into a hostel. 'I am already fiftysomething. How much longer can I wait?' she asked. 'I am exhausted.'

'[The government] should set up more hostels to relieve the pressure on us.'

In 2005-06 and 2006-07, the number of new beds provided in hostels and care and attention homes was 199 and 100 respectively, the department said. 'We will continue to increase service provisions in the coming year and we hope with [the] increase of new service provisions, the waiting time can be shortened,' the department spokeswoman said.