Call for outsiders on welfare agency boards

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

Social workers have called for legislation to allow 'outsiders' a say in the governing boards of subsidised welfare agencies.

The proposal was put forward at a meeting yesterday between social workers' representatives and Director of Social Welfare Stephen Fisher.

The meeting came amid growing complaints by social workers about a lack of checks and balances, which they say has resulted in poorer services and lower staff morale.

Peter Cheung Kwok-che, president of the Social Workers' General Union, said he appreciated Mr Fisher's willingness to listen to their concerns and that he had not expected a quick fix in one meeting.

'We believe that in the long run, there is a need for changes by means of legislation. Like school boards, outsiders can be given seats on the boards of welfare agencies,' he said.

Mr Cheung complained that the power of boards had grown out of proportion since the introduction of the lump-sum grant system in 2001 and accused some boards of hoarding money instead of using it to improve workers' conditions.

Under the lump-sum grant system, the government no longer stipulates the staffing and salary structures of NGOs.

A government-appointed panel is reviewing the system after several protests by social workers.

Separately, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, Christine Fang Meng-sang, dismissed allegations about hoarding.

'Under the lump-sum grant system, NGOs are entitled to and should have some reserve to meet payroll increases, as the grant was only based on the median point of workers' salaries,' Ms Fang said.

Boards were audited by the Social Welfare Department and had to submit financial and management reports, she said.