DEMAND for places at care centres for the elderly will be reviewed after findings that one in five applicants do not need the places urgently. Social Welfare Department figures show 2,100 of the 10,900 applicants on the waiting list are unwilling to move into a centre even if a place is available within six months. The department believes a clean-up of the waiting list would help shorten processing time for applications and allocate resources better. But some applicants last night feared the Government might use the clean-up to slow the expansion of care and attention home services. A care and attention home offers accommodation, general personal care, and nursing services to people aged 60 or above who suffer from poor health or disabilities. An applicant has to wait at least 20 months before being allocated a place, according to the department. The department plans to increase places by 1,600 in the next financial year, with the aim of meeting the expected demand for 11,000 places by 1997. There are now 5,808 care and attention home places. The department says a review of the waiting list is needed to determine the real demand and thus enable better allocation of resources. Director of Social Welfare Ian Strachan said yesterday that some elderly people wanted to ''put their names on the waiting list as an insurance policy'' only. He said the working group on care for the elderly, announced by the Governor Chris Patten in his policy address last year, would look into the subject to enable the Government to get a better picture of the real demand. Assistant director of Social Welfare (Elderly and Medical Social Services) Alfred Chui Wing-man said some applicants might turn down the offers because of a psychological barrier. ''They may be afraid of living in such an environment. Or they may think they should be taken care of by their children rather than being admitted to a care home,'' Mr Chui said. But Wong Siu-kwan, whose mother, Chow San, 86, has waited for a place for more than five years, said: ''All applicants are in urgent need or they would not apply. ''In fact, there is a lack of places in Hong Kong. The only solution is to build more public centres for the elderly.'' Hui Tsun-chun, 73, also remained sceptical. Mr Hui, single, has been without a job since he suffered leg problems last June. He is living in a private nursing centre in North Point and awaiting a place in a Government care and attention centre. ''I have no employment and no income and live on public assistance, but I have to pay $2,800 to the centre. ''I don't know whether my savings can support me until I die,'' said Mr Hui, who receives about $2,600 in old age allowances and public assistance every month.