Social gaps in Patten's speech
THE measures in the Governor's Policy Address will barely contribute to improving the livelihood of the needy; it is not a giveaway. The Hong Kong Council for Social Service welcomes the fact that the Governor ranks the elderly as a high social priority, but is greatly disappointed about how the Government intends to tackle improvement of public assistance.
The Governor did recognise the financial needs and difficulties of the elderly, yet failed to offer immediate relief to them by not raising their public assistance rates. Services for the elderly do not mean residential care for the elderly only, but also aim at encouraging their continual participation in society in areas like employment and social life.
Therefore, apart from the Elderly Services Division to be established under the Health and Welfare Branch, the Government should also set up a Central Committee on Services for the Elderly to oversee the development of the services so as to monitor progress and reduce slippage.
The new supplement and increased standard rate for single parent families and children is grossly inadequate. In order to improve and provide those PA recipients with a minimum acceptable standard of living, improvement of public assistance requires an overall review of the whole system and the basis of calculation.
It was mentioned in the Policy Address that the average monthly payment for a single person is equal to 30 per cent of the median wage, but in fact the standard rate for a single person is only $1,115, less than 15 per cent of the median wage.
As for rehabilitation services, the Governor failed to address the shortage of hostels for the mentally handicapped. Figures in June, 1994 revealed that severely and mild grade mentally handicapped persons have to wait seven and six years respectively for hostel services. Other than residential services, the Address also lacked practical measures to help disabled persons to integrate into society. Moreover, care for the chronically ill focused mainly on medical aspects, without paying attention to their families, social and employment needs.
The council also called for improvement in training and qualification of child care workers. It should be in line with the Governor's proposed improvement for kindergarten teachers.
The Council welcomed the Government's introduction of two United Nations Conventions and legislation to strengthen the rights of individuals and to eliminate discrimination.
The Governor has talked a lot on Sino-British relationship, yet has not touched on the social problems that have resulted from the close contact between Hong Kong and China, such as family and martial problems.
Moreover, with the increase in volume and the complexities of our youth problems, the Government should help to strengthen the functioning of the family and the consolidation of our community, as well as promote better inter-disciplinary collaboration among schools, social workers and police, in striving for comprehensive strategies to prevent and alleviate social problems among our young people.
HUI YIN-FAT Director Hong Kong Council of Social Service