Social welfare chiefs are investigating claims that a man forced his 80-year-old partially handicapped mother to beg on the street in Central. The inquiry comes after a report in a Chinese-language newspaper yesterday claimed that the 52-year-old man regularly took his mother to the pedestrian subway leading to the Star Ferry pier at about 5pm each day. The report said she was taken home in a wheelchair late at night or in the early next morning. It claimed the practice had been going on for three years. Fung Pak-yan, assistant director of the Social Welfare Department, said yesterday it would investigate to see whether the man was guilty of neglect. The woman might have to be taken in by a home for the elderly if necessary, he said. 'It seems that it's highly likely that the case involves elderly abuse,' Mr Fung said. While admitting the government was a latecomer in dealing with the problem of elderly abuse, he said it had set up an inter-departmental working group to deal with the problem and had asked the University of Hong Kong to conduct research into factors that contributed to such kinds of abuse. However, he said it was not always easy to help the needy. 'Old people are adults; they have their own preferences. Often the abusers are their closest family members. It would deal an even greater blow to them if they are asked to leave their loved ones.'