Government seeking to build a caring and age-friendly society

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 6:01pm

Your editorial ("Strategy needed for ageing city", July 18) and your series of articles last week aptly highlight the challenges of our ageing society.

The Hong Kong government is taking concrete steps to address the needs of a greying city.

Elderly care ranks high on the policy agenda of the current-term government, with increased public spending and enhanced service provision. We are also piloting innovative measures with fresh thinking.

Total recurrent expenditure on elderly services is estimated to reach HK$6.8 billion in 2015-16, up 55 per cent over 2011-12.

By adding social security payments and medical services, spending in 2015-16 for our senior citizens will reach a hefty HK$62 billion, or 19.1 per cent of the overall government recurrent expenditure.

The introduction of the Old Age Living Allowance shortly after the inauguration of the current-term government has benefited 420,000 people, representing 40 per cent of our elderly population.

The government is vigorously promoting "active ageing". The popular HK$2 public transport subsidy scheme, estimated to cost the government HK$900 million this year, has attracted an encouraging 777,000 passenger trips daily by the elderly.

In keeping with our policy of "ageing in place as the core, institutional care as the back-up", we are striving to enhance both the quantity and quality of service provision on all fronts.

We are exploring innovative measures through pilot projects, including the "money-follows-user" funding mode and the provision of carers allowance.

We are mounting a major scheme to encourage the in-situ redevelopment or expansion of existing welfare facilities by NGOs with government funding and support. This has drawn an overwhelming response from 43 NGOs and would create 17,000 much-needed residential care and day-care/ rehabilitation places for the elderly and disabled within the next decade. This is a substantial figure.

To attract young blood to the care services sector, we have just launched a HK$147 million "first-hire-then-train" programme with a career ladder for 1,000 school leavers.

More importantly, the Elderly Commission is drawing up an Elderly Service Programme Plan aimed at achieving better planning up to 2030. This is expected to be completed by the middle of next year.

To sum up, the government is making concerted efforts to prepare Hong Kong for the challenge of an ageing city. We are committed to building a caring and age-friendly society.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for labour and welfare