WELFARE groups have called on the Government to allow people on public welfare a bigger say in planning social services policy. Welfare workers said the Government often overlooked the needs of the service users when formulating policies. The call for change came yesterday in a round-table discussion among academics, officials and voluntary organisations at a forum organised by the Government's Central Policy Unit and the University of Hong Kong. Alice Yuk Tak-fun, YWCA general secretary, called for a 'user participation system' to allow negotiation in public forums. 'The Government should not think all users are greedy and will ask for more funding if they are allowed a say. 'Letting them participate will enable them to understand more about what their real needs are and that might lead to a cut in redundant services,' she said. A senior lecturer in City University's Division of Social Studies, Kong Siu-hong, said the Government should pay more attention to 'marginalised social groups' - for example, new immigrants from China. Mr Kong said the present system seemed to favour organised groups who knew how to attract attention. He said for patients with chronic illnesses, whose needs had been ignored in the rehabilitation programme between 1977 and 1994, it was not until recently - after they had staged protests - that their views were heard. Joyce Lai Ma Lai-chong, a lecturer in the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Department of Social Work, also suggested welfare recipients be subsidised to set up 'self-help organisations'. She said the present practice of letting welfare bodies provide services could overlook the clients' real need. 'It works on the assumption helping professionals are more knowledgeable and skilful in understanding clients' needs. But it is not always true,' said Mrs Lai. At present, voluntary organisations provide almost 75 per cent of social services. Acting Deputy Director of Social Welfare Paul Wong Po-wah agreed to the 'user participation' concept and is to seek the views of welfare organisations.