Fruit-money frustration for cross-border retirees

Most of the 100 people who lined up to apply for elderly allowance turned away because of a lack of paperwork

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 3:51am

Many cross-border retirees trying to register for the "fruit money" allowance went away disappointed yesterday after failing to provide information such as proof of a Guangdong address and a Hong Kong bank account.

Applicants lined up outside the Social Welfare Department's service centre in Sheung Shui on the first day for applications for the new scheme, which allows Hong Kong retirees in Guangdong to receive a HK$1,135-a-month old-age allowance.

Previously, they could not get the money unless they spent at least 60 days a year in Hong Kong.

Chan Nam, 73, whose application for the allowance was rejected twice in the past three years, will have to wait longer to get it because he did not know he needed to bring proof of a Guangdong address.

He said the information about how to apply, published in newspapers and broadcast on television, was not detailed enough.

"I'm still quite confused how I can get my address proof," he said after leaving the centre.

He was also confused on learning the application was a two-step process and that even after submitting the required papers, he would have to return in two months for an interview.

"I have not got one cent from the government," said Chan, who moved to Guangdong when he retired in 2009.

Welfare secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung announced on Wednesday that applications under the department's Guangdong Scheme would begin yesterday and that successful applicants would start getting the money in October, a month earlier than originally proposed.

Choi Kok-min, 78, who moved to Shenzhen in 1993, had no supporting documents except for a Hong Kong ID card.

"They ask not only for proof of an address but also my account number in a Hong Kong bank. But I don't have one," he said.

"Then they told me that if I want to open an account here, I'll need proof of an address in Hong Kong. But my family are all living in Guangdong," said Choi.

He said he hoped the government would help him open a bank account.

The service centre received about 50 applications on the first day although more than 180 people visited it and more than 1,000 rang up with inquiries.

The centre's officer-in-charge, Fiona Tao Ching, said the elderly need not "visit our centre in person to take or submit the application form". She added: "If they call us, we can mail the form, together with instructions, to the address they provide."

Applicants could then mail or fax their applications to the centre, which would send back a confirmation letter after receiving all the required documents.

The application period will last until October.

The department will arrange interviews for eligible applicants from October 2, and those who are successful will receive their "fruit money" seven days after the interview.