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In his 2012-13 Budget presented on Feb 1, Financial Secretary John Tsang highlighted a number of strategic measures that will strengthen support for the elderly, as Hong Kong copes with a rapidly aging population. Recurrent government expenditure on social welfare as a whole in 2012-13 will rise by 9 percent year-on-year to HK$44 billion. That represents a substantial increase of about 30 percent compared with the provision of HK$34 billion in 2007-08.
Elderly care continues to be a key focus of the annual fiscal blueprint. In 2012-13, recurrent expenditure on elderly services alone (excluding public housing and public health services) will amount to HK$5 billion, compared with HK$4.4 billion for the current financial year. In other words, 11 percent of total recurrent social welfare spending will be dedicated to the elderly. If you include social security payments (Comprehensive Social Security Allowance, Old Age Allowance and Disability Allowance) this sum rises to a hefty HK$23.4 billion.
We are meeting the challenge of an aging population through a three-pronged strategy.
First, we will promote active aging and harness the social capital of our senior citizens. Many of our baby boomer generation are able, willing and ready to continue contributing to society in a variety of valuable ways after they reach retirement age. We should make the most of this phenomenon and explore the full potential of developing our “silver-hair” market.
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Second, we will continue to spare no effort in providing much-needed subsidized residential care home places to meet the growing demand. Some 2 600 such places will come on stream between 2011-12 and 2014-15. We will also upgrade the quality of residential places in private homes under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme (EBPS).
Third, we must take visionary and bold steps to better facilitate the elderly to age at home and remain in a community setting. This is in keeping with the wishes of most elderly people and in line with our policy objective of “Aging in place as the core, institutional care as the back-up”.
The Community Care Service Voucher Pilot Scheme for the elderly will be launched in two phases starting from 2013-14. This will test the new funding model of “money-follows-user”. It will also enhance the flexibility and quality of home and day-care services and encourage the participation of more and new service providers, including social enterprises. The first phase will target elderly people experiencing moderate impairment. They will each receive a single value voucher worth HK$5,000 per month, with the government contributing between HK$2,500 and HK$4,500 depending on their financial capacity. More complex features may be introduced to cater for different care needs of the elderly in the second phase.
The Budget has earmarked HK$900 million from the Lotteries Fund to improve the physical setting and facilities of up to 250 elderly centers. Through computerization and upgrading leisure and sports facilities, these centers will enable users to engage more fully in community life. By giving these centers a facelift, we also hope to draw out more “hidden elderly”.
Upgrading facilities at elderly centers, coupled with the launch of the HK$2 Public Transport Concession Scheme later this year, will encourage more elderly people to get out and about and lead a fuller and richer golden age.
Another important area is to significantly enhance support for elderly people with dementia. The Budget increases recurrent funding for the Dementia Supplement by HK$137 million. This will enable subvented residential elderly care homes, day care centers and private homes under the EBPS to improve their services, benefiting some 5,000 elderly people.