The number of care places for mentally handicapped people must be increased, their parents urged yesterday as a 3,000-bed shortfall was revealed. They added that new places had been provided every year under a five-year plan which began in 1993. But Tung Chee-hwa's office has made no promise to continue the increases beyond next year, said the Joint Council of Parents of the Mentally Handicapped. 'We make the request every six months. We are worried that the growth will slow down,' said chairman William Chang Kwong-chi, adding that some people who got a place this year had been waiting since 1989. The Social Welfare Department said about 5,000 severely handicapped people needed special care, but only 1,983 places were available. It was difficult to look after them at home when the disability allowance did not cover costs, said Mr Chang. 'The parents have to sacrifice their lives to look after their handicapped children . . . it is very difficult to find someone willing to be the carer,' he added. The group is launching a $1 million fund-raising event with help from insurers Eagle Star, pop star Amanda Lee Wai-man and RTHK.