Motion on “Implementing ‘Carer-centric’ Policy” (2022.11.30)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, President. In recent years, family tragedies have occurred from time to time because carers are under excessive pressure, and these tragedies have usually occurred in disadvantaged groups. It is sad to hear about these tragedies every time. In fact, these tragedies are only a minority, and there are still many people in Hong Kong who take care of elderly people, persons with chronic diseases and persons with physical disabilities in their families in the capacity of carers every day. Very often, these carers are even “seniors caring for seniors” without a break for a long time. Apart from having no income, they are under increasingly heavy healthcare and livelihood burdens. As carers are usually related to the care recipients by blood and cannot “resign” from taking care of their close relatives, carers can only bear all kinds of pressure and suffering in silence.

I am very grateful to Mr Stanley LI for proposing today’s motion so that we can discuss this issue with the Government. In fact, the Legislative Council discussed this issue time and again in the past. To be fair, the Government has also done a lot of work in recent years, such as the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly (“CCSV Pilot Scheme”), the Integrated Home Care Services, and the study commissioned to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (“PolyU”) recently. In the study by PolyU, 5 000 relevant carers were interviewed, so the report should be representative. For the 11 specific recommendations made in the report, the Government has indicated that it supports them in principle and will consider each of them seriously.

I support increasing the support for carers to ease their pressure on the one hand, and to promote the model of ageing in place to cope with the problem of an ageing population in the future on the other hand. Hong Kong has gradually developed towards an ageing society. In the next 20 years, the number of people aged 65 or above will nearly double, with one in three people in Hong Kong being an elderly person. So, the Government must be prepared to meet the challenges. In the past, the Government tended to build or subsidize residential care homes for the elderly (“RCHEs”) and arrange elderly people to live in RCHEs as far as possible. However, with the change of time, the model of ageing in RCHEs is not sufficient to meet the challenges of an ageing population. In response, the Government has proposed ageing in place in recent years, which I strongly support.

In fact, the construction and operation of RCHEs are expensive; the cost of each RCHE place alone ranges from $12,000 to $25,000 per month, without including the cost of land, construction, etc. Moreover, RCHEs are facing a long-standing shortage of manpower, and there has been a need to study the importation of foreign workers recently. At present, there are already long queues for RCHE places. With the elderly population doubling in the future, even if there are resources and land for doubling the number of RCHEs constructed, RCHEs will still be inadequate and long queues for such services will remain.

Therefore, I believe that RCHE places should be reserved for elders who genuinely need all-round care. The Government can use the funding originally allocated for RCHEs to promote ageing in place, including providing more day care services for the elderly, home care services, the CCSV Pilot Scheme and cash subsidy, and even subsidizing the hiring of foreign domestic helpers. At the same time, the cost of ageing in place is much lower than that of providing RCHE services, so more elderly people can be taken care of with the same amount of resources.

In fact, many elderly people are reluctant to be admitted to RCHEs because of their varying service quality and the need to be separated from their relatives. Therefore, if elderly people are not too poor in health, ageing in place is the best solution to the problem when there is substantial financial assistance from the Government and carers are willing to take care of them. I think everyone should be concerned about and support this issue, because everyone will grow old. A carer today will become a care recipient in the future. Being taken care of by family members is always more comfortable and cosier than being admitted to an RCHE. In this way, elderly persons can lead a happier life and enjoy a genuine quality life in their twilight years, while the Government can also solve the problem of ageing population, which is a win-win situation.

Thank you, President.

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