Little divides welfare candidates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2008, 12:00am

The two pan-democrat candidates fighting for the more than 12,500 votes in the social welfare functional constituency only appear to be separated by their views on funding.

Social Workers' General Union president Peter Cheung Kwok-che and Democratic Party vice-chairman Tik Chi-yuen are the only candidates contesting the sector after incumbent Civic Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung decided to run in the New Territories West geographical constituency this year.

Peter Cheung lost out to Fernando Cheung by just 64 votes four years ago, while Mr Tik was a directly elected lawmaker for New Territories North from 1991 to 1995.

The lump-sum grant scheme for welfare organisations, introduced in 2000, has triggered fierce debate in the sector, with many arguing that the government has used the scheme to cut its resources.

Peter Cheung said he was opposed to the scheme because it had given too much financial flexibility to welfare organisations, with many opting to cut frontline staff numbers and salaries.

'The heavy workload and unfair salary structure have damaged morale among social workers, leading to a very high turnover,' he said.

Mr Cheung, who said he had 33 years' experience working on the frontline, urged the government to restore regulations governing an organisation's staffing and salary levels and quality of services.

Mr Tik said he would prefer to see the scheme retained, even though he was disappointed the government had used it as a way to cut resources.

He said the scheme allowed organisations the flexibility they needed to allocate resources, but some regulation was also needed to protect the interests of staff.

He said the low morale among social workers could be attributed to the lack of a long-term government policy on welfare, which had led to a failure to address complicated social problems and put pressure on frontline staff.

Social welfare sector

Voters: 12,519

Turnout 2004: 82.13%


Peter Cheung Kwok-che (I)

Tik Chi-yuen (DP)

DP - Democratic Party

I - Independent