HUNDREDS of millions of dollars more are expected to be earmarked for social welfare in a package to be announced today. But social workers fear the money will not benefit the elderly and needy. They said unless the Government drastically raised public assistance payments, 150,000 recipients, including 53,000 single elderly, were likely to be condemned to lives of misery. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will today reveal the multi-billion dollar expenditure plans for social welfare in the government estimates for 1996-97. Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun, of the Hong Kong University's Department of Social Work and Social Administration, predicted at least $15.6 billion, or a 20 per cent rise, in welfare spending next year. Last year, the Government set aside about $13 billion for social welfare, an increase of 13.2 per cent over the previous year. 'Such an increase is not to cover any new items but to honour the promises made earlier by the Government including proposals to increase rates in some public assistance categories,' the professor said. 'There are about 2,000 new public assistance cases every month. The Government must inject much to support the scheme.' Governor Chris Patten announced in his policy address in October a 12 to 54 per cent rise for the standard Comprehensive Social Security Assistance rates for single-parent families, sick adults and for the elderly living with families from April this year. Hui Yin-fat, the director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which represents more than 200 welfare agencies, said the rates for single elderly should also be increased. Mr Hui said: 'The existing rate, at $1,810 a month, is not enough to support the elderly in a decent life. 'Many old people have already been killed by the cold because of lack of money and care. I hope the Government can learn a lesson.' Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, demanded some popular special grants be given automatically to all elderly on public assistance. At present, certain people can apply for such grants. 'But some elderly find it troublesome to fill in forms,' he said. 'Others do not know much about it.' Democratic Party legislator Law Chi-kwong said he would lobby for other schemes to help the poor if the Budget disappointed. Mr Law said his party might vote against the Budget if the Government failed to give satisfactory answers.