The government would write to all private residential care homes for the elderly to remind them not to use welfare payment bonuses to cover residential care fees after the legislature passes this year's budget, the Social Welfare Department said yesterday.
In the budget announced last month, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said about 500,000 people receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) would get an extra month's payment, at a cost of HK$1 billion to the government.
But a media report yesterday said at least 40 private residential care homes for the elderly had said they would use the extra month's allowance to pay elderly people's residential care fees without seeking their clients' approval.
The report said 98 private residential care homes kept the savings passbooks and the Chinese name seals of elderly people with dementia, so they could withdraw money from their savings accounts any time, even without their clients' approval.
The Social Welfare Department said yesterday the extra month's welfare payment was a sharing of the fruits of economic prosperity with CSSA recipients, but 'absolutely not to subsidise residential care fees'.
'The Social Welfare Department hopes that all residential care homes for the elderly can ensure that all CSSA recipients in their institutions can directly benefit from this additional assistance,' it said in a statement, warning care homes to observe the rules.
The department said it would explain the government's position to all private care home operators and remind them not to use the extra allowances to cover the elderly people's residential care fees.
The department said residential care home staff should never withdraw or use elderly people's savings to pay service fees without client approval.
Arrangements to settle residential care fees should be made with families or department social workers in the event elderly people's mental abilities deteriorated to a point where they could not manage their financial affairs.