Grants from charity cash 'unethical'

Quinton Chan

OPPOSITION is growing towards a government plan to make grants from the Lotteries Fund to profit-making private homes for the elderly.

Legislators and welfare groups say the plan to pay $50 million of 'charity money' to profit-making homes is unethical.

The Governor, Chris Patten, proposed in October to provide funds to help private homes pay for safety improvements required by new laws.

The Working Group on Care for the Elderly later recommended $50 million be allocated from the Lotteries Fund, and the proposal was approved by the Government.

Legislators and welfare groups say it violates the basic principles of the Lotteries Fund and that the administration should not use the charity money to subsidise private profit-making organisations.

A Social Welfare Department source said the Government planned to divide the money into small requests to avoid opposition from the Subventions and Lotteries Fund Advisory Committee (SLFAC).

The committee only has to approve individual funding requests of more than $400,000. Anything lower can be authorised by the Director of Social Welfare, Ian Strachan.

Dr Law Chi-kwong, head of the Social Work Department at Hong Kong University, said that during a meeting with social welfare groups last week, Mr Strachan refused to rule out taking that option.

'This is completely wrong,' Dr Law said. 'If he does this, then he is trying to cover his fault through administrative measures.' Legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said it was an unethical act, and fellow legislator Hui Yin-fat said it would set a bad example.