Groups urge CY to improve welfare for the elderly, poor and disabled
Advocacy groups and parties set out the social issues they say should be addressed as priorities
Better welfare for elderly, poor and disabled people tops the wish lists of advocacy groups and political parties as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's prepares his maiden policy address.
As Leung speaks on January 16, all eyes and ears will be on how he accomplishes his election platform of improving life for ordinary Hongkongers.
Chua Hoi-wai, a business director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service who sits on the Commission on Poverty, said since the panel had only recently been revived, he expected people would have to wait longer for new initiatives on social security and retirement protection and an overhaul would be unlikely to come in time for the policy address.
"With the population rapidly ageing, I hope the government can prepare for an old-age-friendly society as soon as possible. It has yet to set out directions in this respect," he said.
"The administration should consider the social and economic needs of elderly people and cater for them in town planning. It should build more accessible communities."
During the election campaign, Leung pledged to boost home care service and shorten the waiting time for elderly people at nursing homes.
He also vowed to provide more housing and health care assistance for Hongkongers retiring across the border in co-operation with the mainland authorities and set aside land for housing complexes with nursing facilities for elderly people.
As for people with disabilities, concern groups and parties such as the Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are urging the government to require large enterprises to hire a certain percentage of disabled employees and provide such companies with financial incentives.
"Many people with disabilities are not incapable but hardly have a chance to work," said Wang Suqin, chief executive of the People of Fortitude - International Mutual-aid Association for the Disabled. As of March 31, 2 per cent, or 3,391, of 160,718 civil servants had disabilities, the latest government figures showed.
She proposed the government require enterprises with at least 100 employees to hire a certain percentage of people with disabilities, or pay a levy if they hire none. Tax concessions could, she added, be given to enterprises which hire people with disabilities.
Leung earlier promised in his platforms that he would foster job opportunities for disabled people by, say, providing an employment subsidy and offering employers tax concessions.
On social participation, Leung floated the idea of issuing a debit card for elderly people living in poor areas to help them buy necessities, as well as opening canteens offering free or cheap food.
On welfare services, Leung promised to do medium to long-term planning and set concrete targets on such areas as manpower demand and supply, training and service facilities.
On Boxing Day, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor visited residents of a partitioned flat and a rooftop shanty, as well as street sleepers.
In a blog entry for the Commission on Poverty the following day, she wrote that the idea of turning vacant flats or buildings pending redevelopment into interim housing run by non-governmental organisations for the needy was "worth considering".
"The government should speed up the provision of public housing as many people are made homeless due to high private rents," said Ada Li Shuk-fan, director of the Christian Concern for the Homeless Association.
She added that authorities should locate more vacant flats for use as interim housing at low rents for those people waiting for public housing.