Welfare handouts will eat up the largest growth in public spending with $29.1 billion, 13 per cent more than the current year, earmarked for social services in 1999-2000. More than half of this growth will be absorbed by the increased caseload of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme which is expected to cost $15 billion, up from the existing $13 billion. The Government is predicting 296,045 such cases by the end of this financial year, rising to 349,100 next year. Services for the elderly and disabled will be expanded but social workers expressed dismay that no extra school social workers would be employed, while expansion in family services was minimal. They also said resource planning had not considered the needs of any inflow of new migrants in light of the Court of Final Appeal's right of abode decision. Tik Chi-yuen, chairman of the Committee on Home-school Co-operation, said: 'We feel school social workers are a very important service which doesn't need a whole lot of resources. 'Many teachers and social workers think it's a high priority and they are bound to be disappointed now.' He attacked the Government for abandoning its promise in a recent review to meet the target of one case worker for every 1,500 students. But a spokeswoman for the Social Welfare Department said some integrated teams would be pulled from the child and youth centres to provide comprehensive services for the young. Cheung Kwok-che, president of the Hong Kong Social Workers General Union, said integrated services could resolve the problems of young delinquents effectively. 'If no preventive measures are taken, problems like youth gangs are just like a time-bomb which will go off at any time,' he said. Mr Cheung said the 29 additional family case workers to be employed would barely cover the needs at the growing new towns. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service also urged the Government to plan resources for a possible large number of new arrivals. Director Hui Yin-fat said although more residential places and pre-school places would be made available for disabled adults and children, the provision still lagged far behind demand. Rita Lam Yu-kiu, chairwoman of the Association for the Rights of the Elderly, praised the continued expansion of services for the elderly. Some $470 million will be allocated to these services to cover more social centres, day-care and multi-service centres and an upgraded home-help service.