THE increase in welfare spending for 1996-97 is not enough to meet planned targets, let alone the rising demand from those in need, welfare groups said. They said the $16.5 billion recurrent spending for 1996-97, an increase of 14.7 per cent in real terms from last year announced by Secretary for the Treasury Kwong Ki-chi, was an illusion created by the Government to fool the public. Total social welfare spending, including capital expenditure, is $19 billion or 8.4 per cent of total spending. It is the sector with the highest increment. But Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun of the Hong Kong University's Department of Social Work and Social Administration said most of the money was to honour promises made by the Government long ago. 'I cannot see any money for new commitments in these estimates,' he said. Ho Hei-wah of the Society for Community Organisation said the Government was playing with figures. 'In percentage points, social welfare has the biggest increment. But the fact is that money should have been paid earlier. And it is disappointing that there is no mention on how to help single elderly,' he said. Hui Yin-fat, director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, said the $1.2 billion increase on social service spending was not enough to meet the anticipated 21.8 per cent rise in Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipi-ents. 'I wonder if the amount is enough to meet rising demand, or for any real improvements,' he said. About 150,000 people are living on assistance and each month there are about 2,000 new cases. Democratic Party legislator Law Chi-kwong said the weak and old would have to wait a long time before they were given a place in attention homes. The Government estimates an extra 1,594 residential places, 43 social centres, three day care centres and six multi-service centres for the elderly would be available in 1996-97. But figures from the Social Welfare Department show more than 12,000 elderly are waiting for a care and attention home place, and 4,885 for an old people's home place. Applicants have to wait for three and 11/2 years respectively. The figures for other welfare spending areas include: social security services, up by 13.5 per cent to $9.9 billion; elderly and medical social services, up 17.1 per cent with an injection of $1.3 billion; family and child welfare up 17.9 per cent to $1.39 billion and rehabilitation up 15.3 per cent to $1.1 billion.