Nearly 300 volunteers have started providing home services for needy elderly under a one-year trial scheme. About 270 volunteers, mostly retired people and part-time workers, had completed the 21-hour training programme by January under the scheme that began in October. The training covered areas such as understanding the physical and emotional needs of the elderly, how to offer proper care, first aid and basic medical knowledge about diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure and the flu. Haven of Hope Christian Service, which is among the centres that joined the scheme, runs an elderly centre at Sheung Tak Estate in Tseung Kwan O. Its social worker, Cheng Pui-ling, said the centre had trained 26 carers. 'Our graduates have already provided help 60 times, including home visits, hospital escorts and helping out with group picnics,' she said. She said the trained carers were assigned to cases based on their personalities and language skills. 'The volunteers are a great help to us as there are about 30,000 elderly in need in Tseung Kwan O south, and our centre only has 25 staff,' Ms Cheng said. 'The carers can help us offer better assistance.' District elderly centres run the training programme, which follows a pledge by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in last year's policy address to strengthen training for carers of the elderly. Under the scheme, introduced in Eastern District, Wan Chai, Wong Tai Sin, Sai Kung, Kowloon City and Yau Tsim Mong District, each elderly centre receives a one-off government grant of HK$50,000 to cover the costs of providing training to volunteers and travel expenses for carers. Trained participants offer services such as home care, home visits and escorting elderly patients to hospitals for regular medical check-ups Chief social work officer (elderly) Fu Tsun-hung, of the Social Welfare Department, said there was a need to strengthen training of carers for the growing population of elderly people. 'There are about 600,000 elderly who are in need of help in the city,' he said. 'They might be elderly living alone or two to three old people living in one household. Elderly people tend not to actively seek help, and we need to build up a community network to locate them.' Mr Fu said a review of the trial scheme would be done in October to see if the plan could be extended to other districts. 'We aim to introduce this trial scheme to every district.'