SAR to spend HK$1.38 billion boosting welfare payments
CSSA, elderly and disability allowances to increase by 4.1 percent next year
The government is planning to increase welfare payments for disabled and elderly people in Hong Kong early next year, documents submitted to the Legislative Council on Friday show.
Over 1 million recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), disability allowances, Old Age Allowance and Old Age Living Allowance will benefit from a routine payment boost of 4.1 percent — effective from next February.
The city’s welfare payments, including the CSSA and allowances for old people and the disabled, are adjusted once a year under a mechanism based upon the Social Security Assistance Index of Prices compiled by the Census and Statistics Department.
Based on the latest figures reported in late November, the government fixed the payment increase for next year at 4.1 percent for CSSA, two types of disability allowances and old age allowances that require no means test.
The government submitted the documents to apply for a HK$1.38 billion funding boost from the LegCo Finance Committee, which will deliberate on the proposal next Friday.
If approved, a single mother with a dependent child will receive HK$4,485 a month of CSSA from next February, instead of HK$4,310. An elderly person only eligible for the Old Age Allowance will also receive an extra HK$45 every month.
It was also the first annual review of payment amounts for the Old Age Living Allowance scheme, which was introduced this February, as promised by Chief Executive Leung Chunying.
Adjustment of the new living allowance is also tied to the same set of data, but since the review period is different from other assistance schemes, recipients will only benefit from a 3.8 percent payment rise, or from HK$2,200 to HK$2,285, next February.
Among all the CSSA subsidies, recipients living in rental housing will receive an increase of up to 6.5 percent, which was fixed with reference to change of Consumer Price Index A — the formula is now a subject of judicial review. The High Court will hand down a ruling soon.
The LegCo panel on welfare services had suggested a redesign of the price index to reflect the projected inflation rate. But the government stated in the documents that “we consider it appropriate to adjust the rates in accordance with the established mechanism”.
Lee Yin-ho, a spokesman for the CSSA Alliance said on Friday he was disappointed by the increases. He said compilation of the price index was too out-of-date and failed to match actual increases in people’s living costs.
As of October 2013, there were 123,171 recipients of the disability allowance, 208,515 recipients of Old Age Allowance and 402,152 recipients of the Old Age Living Allowance. There were also 262,547 households, or 398,685 individuals, covered by the CSSA scheme.
The city’s social security net is set to undergo more changes. A new income supplement for the working poor with children was expected to be unveiled at the next Policy Address. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong will offer options for universal retirement protection next year.