The Elderly NEEDY old people could be hit by the Governor's failure to keep pledges to improve their welfare, say watchdogs. Their concern was fuelled by yesterday's release of the Government's progress report on promises made to Hong Kong people over the past three years by Governor Chris Patten. The Social Welfare Department, as revealed by the South China Morning Post last week, has one of the poorest records. The report admits the department is failing in its bid to offer 5,888 new residential places for the aged by 1997, and identifies seven areas, primarily in elderly and disabled welfare, where it needs to 'catch up'. Delay is partly due to the poor result of a $2.5 billion plan to turn private premises into centres. Among the 54 premises to be bought in 1995-96, only 10 - including three social centres for the aged, one home-help centre and one hostel - have been secured. Other targets slipping away include: The provision of seven nursing homes with 1,400 beds by 1997. The provision of 737 more places in pre-school centres for disabled children by 1998-99. The offer of 3,930 more residential places for the mentally disabled, former mentally ill, aged blind, and physically disabled by 1997. And the provision of 3,760 extra places in sheltered workshops and day activity centres by 1997. The department has promised to speed up progress. But there are about 17,000 aged people on the waiting list for special homes. An applicant must wait three years for a place in a government care and attention home, 17 months for an old people's home, and 16 months for a hostel. The Association for the Rights of the Elderly said the delay could be fatal and accused the Government of 'playing with figures'. Chairman Kwok Lit-tung said: 'The department claims an 86 per cent completion rate of all the targets. But most targets it has achieved are only about allocating money or setting up working groups.' He urged the Government to raise public assistance payments for old people suffering hardship while on the waiting list, from the standard $1,810 to $2,700 as short-term help. However, the Social Welfare Department defended itself. Among 57 undertakings begun in the last three years, it had been ahead of schedule on one, had completed 23, and was on schedule to complete 19 others, said a spokesman. Director of Social Welfare Ian Strachan argued: 'There are some factors beyond our control and these will affect our ability to catch up fully.' He denied the delay was serious and said they had made 'amazing progress by world standards'.