Hong Kong government’s elderly services forum fails to engage participants

Concern groups stage protest during first of 18 consultation sessions, criticising organisers for showing ‘no sincerity’ towards stakeholders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 October, 2016, 2:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2016, 3:09pm

Participants of an elderly services public engagement forum lashed out at government-commissioned planning consultants on Monday for a poorly organised consultation.

Held at the Causeway Bay Community Centre in Fortress Hill, the forum marked the start of the third and final “consensus building” stage of the proposed Elderly Services Programme Plan, announced in the 2014 Policy Address. It was the first of 18 sessions that are set to take place over coming weeks.

It’s a very painful process for us to go through such as rigorous mechanism. I hope you can review procedures and improve next time
Participant, surnamed Fung

Inside Monday’s forum, Ernest Chui Wing-tak, consultant team leader from the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work, presented the Formulation Stage report on the plan to around 80 attendants. But the briefing lacked interaction and failed to engage many of the participants.

One participant, surnamed Fung and almost 80 years old, said she had a hard time concentrating.

“It’s a very painful process for us to go through such as rigorous mechanism. I hope you can review procedures and improve next time,” she told Chui.

Many participants also voiced their frustrations over the text on the big screen being too small to read, and having no time to read the report before giving feedback.

Meanwhile, some 30 people from 14 different concern groups staged a protest outside the forum, accusing organisers of showing no sincerity or respect to the older people by releasing a 152-page report just days before kicking off consultations.

Mak Yuen-lin, spokeswoman for the concern group said they were not given a reasonable amount of time to study the working group’s proposals.

Pilot subsidy scheme for Hong Kong’s elderly to be expanded to 18 districts

“We did voice our concerns and discontent during the second stage of the consultation, but it seems the government was only keen on steamrolling its plan through,” she said.

Of the proposals listed in the report, the group opposed the introduction of a voucher scheme for residential care services, which would subsidise users of private nursing homes with taxpayers funds.

Mak said it amounted to the government offloading responsibility over the private sector, which has no quality assurance.

Chui and fellow social work expert Law Chi-kwong promised to improve their presentation style for the remaining sessions.

The Elderly Services Programme Plan, a two-year study commissioned by the Elderly Commission, suggested urban planning rules be revised so that all Hong Kong housing estates include facilities, such as nursing homes.

It also proposed long-term health insurance for the ageing population in an effort to reduce the financial burden on the public purse.

Demand for long-term nursing facilities is projected to more than double from about 60,000 this year to 125,000 by 2051.