Call for funded group to help arrange funerals for poor singles

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2008, 12:00am

A government-funded welfare group should be set up to help arrange funerals and cremations for poor, single people, the Society for Community Organisation has urged.

The concern group said deaths of poor people without relatives had been mostly ignored and only sometimes did NGOs help.

'We are short of staff and time to deal with such things. We have to send someone to apply for death certificates, prepare for a simple funeral and arrange the cremation. It normally takes five to six days,' Ng Wai-tung, a community organiser for the society, said.

Many of the people the society had helped had been Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients, so a burial grant of up to HK$10,610 for each could be claimed from the government.

'It's not just about money. We need to assign our limited human resources to handle their after-death affairs, like claiming the burial grant from the government. But we have barely more than a dozen full-time staff members,' he said.

Ho Sheung, a single pensioner who died of a cerebral haemorrhage at age 76 at Caritas Medical Centre on January 8, was one of the people it had made arrangements for.

His friend Hung Sai-fun, 57, who met Ho at a hostel for street-sleepers in Sham Shui Po, said the government made little effort to assist with funerals and cremations for poor, single elderly people.

'Many of the single, elderly people in Hong Kong are miserable. The government should be serving us but they don't care about social service at all,' Mr Hung said.

The society's Mr Ng said it had helped arrange Ho's funeral when asked to by Mr Hung and other friends of the deceased.

'We don't dare to publicise that we are doing that and try to keep a low profile because we can't afford to spare more effort to help them out,' Mr Ng said. 'If we don't help, their bodies will just be cremated without any funeral.'

In the 2006-07 financial year, the government granted 12,889 applications for burial grants with an expenditure of HK$131 million, HK$1 million more than the year before.