More than 310,000 elderly residents have begun getting a new HK$2,200 allowance since the scheme started in April, the outgoing social welfare chief says.
The Old Age Living Allowance is double the Old Age Allowance of HK$1,100 a month - known as fruit money as it buys so little. All recipients of the new allowance must pass a means test, however. The newest data shows 270,000 fruit-money recipients were automatically transferred to the new scheme by the time of the first payment on April 4.
Another 30,000 people who are already on some other form of government help have passed the means test, while in the third stage, 7,000 new applicants for the old-age subsidy have received approval from the Social Welfare Department. Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, who has headed the implementation arm of the government's welfare policies since August 2009, said pushing through the new programme in just nine months had been an arduous task. "I do think that pushing policies [in today's political atmosphere] is hard," Nip said yesterday. "I experienced it first-hand." Nip steps down today for a six-month assignment to handle poverty alleviation and population policies.
In his three years in the job, welfare spending increased almost 40 per cent from HK$39.5 billion in 2009 to HK$54.7 billion this year - the second-largest area of government expenditure.
Specific spending on elderly-related schemes also rose 40 per cent, he said. "The need for social welfare in Hong Kong is very big," he said. "The money will never be enough."