The government plans to expand a welfare scheme that allows elderly recipients who choose to retire on the mainland to continue receiving their Hong Kong payments. Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday he had sent staff to Fujian to study the feasibility of implementing the Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme in the province. There are now 3,000 recipients. The scheme, which pays from $2,500 to $4,400 a month, was introduced in 1997 for elderly welfare recipients who chose to live in Guangdong for most of the year. Applicants must have lived in Hong Kong for at least seven years, be aged 60 or above and have received CSSA for three consecutive years. But unlike those who live in Hong Kong they do not receive special grants such as rent allowances and travelling expenses. 'There are some elderly who prefer to receive a smaller welfare payment in exchange for a life of better quality in Guangdong province,' Dr Chow said. 'We are now considering extending the scheme to other mainland provinces. These are our elderly and we must help them.' Dr Chow added that the government would consider raising CSSA payments, but only if the inflation rate rose by a few percentage points. Speaking on an RTHK radio programme, the health and welfare chief also defended the existing level of welfare in response to recent criticism that CSSA payments were insufficient to help meet recipients' basic needs. 'There are suggestions that we should also take into account recipients' expenses on newspapers, computers and so on,' he said. 'But I feel that these are the special needs of certain families or individuals. 'Rather than meeting individual needs by using cash, we prefer tailoring services for the needs of groups such as vulnerable children, single families and the disabled.'