Fewer people will be eligible for welfare payments in the future, the Director of Social Welfare said yesterday. Speaking after an RTHK radio phone-in, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the department would tighten up the eligibility criteria for payments under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme. The review is expected to be completed within 18 months. Mrs Lam said although social welfare payments were being cut by 11.1 per cent, the department would spend $16.2 billion on CSSA this year, a rise of $200 million from last year. 'The government is unlikely to further cut welfare next year because the deflation rate only fluctuates between 1 and 1.5 per cent,' she said. Mrs Lam also expected an increase in welfare applicants in the new year. However, she assured people that the department would not cap welfare expenditure. 'We will see whether we should tighten up requirements for new immigrants applying for social welfare. Besides, we will look at what can be done to encourage single-parent families to live without the dole,' she said. The criteria for elderly people applying for CSSA would also be examined, the secretary for health, welfare and food said. Yeoh Eng-kiong added: 'There is no definition of elderly. By international standards, you are an elderly person when you turn 65. But as our population is ageing and the elderly are getting healthier, 65 is actually a very young age. Some people don't retire until 80 nowadays.' Concern groups and legislators have accused the government of bullying the vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled by cutting their welfare. But Dr Yeoh said the government only had limited resources and it could not afford to have too generous a welfare policy.