SAR to spend HK$1.38 bil­lion boost­ing wel­fare pay­ments

CSSA, el­derly and dis­abil­ity al­lowances to in­crease by 4.1 per­cent next year

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By KAHON CHAN in Hong Kong kahon@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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