HK$4,500-a-month help for elderly
Ada Lee and Colleen Lee
The elderly are in line for a monthly subsidy of as much as HK$4,500 to pay for services such as the delivery of meals and physiotherapy.
The pilot scheme would help the elderly take advantage of assistance provided by day care centres and elderly homes, Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said yesterday.
Cheung was elaborating on the benefits of the latest budget as he and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah fended off criticism that the multibillion-dollar measures would hardly help those in dire need. The subsidy will be handed directly to the elderly in the form of vouchers instead of to the centres they visit, which is the current practice.
The four-year trial scheme would allow elderly people to decide what services they wanted, instead of being limited by what their centres provided, Cheung said.
'It will be more flexible and direct,' he said.
'It can also lead to more competition among service providers, improving their quality.'
The co-payment scheme seeks to help elderly people with moderate impairment use the services.
They are required to pass a means test, after which they can buy vouchers worth HK$5,000 by paying between HK$500 and HK$2,500. Cheung said it cost an average of HK$5,000 a month to look after someone at an elderly home or day care centre.
Lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che, of the welfare sector, said it would be more reasonable if the government calculated the voucher value based on the services an individual needed, and provided vouchers of varying values.
'If a not-so-healthy elderly man needs physiotherapy sessions three times a week, HK$5,000 is definitely not enough.' He also said some people might not be able to afford the minimum HK$500 to buy a voucher.