Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 243


Holes in carer support system need immediate plugging

The EOC made a submission to the Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services last month, as the panel held a special meeting to discuss support for carers and provision of residential care services for persons with disabilities (PWDs), following a tragic incident where a mother allegedly strangled her 21-year-old son who had intellectual disability.

Although Government statistics shows that nearly 204,000 PWDs and over 175,000 persons with chronic diseases have someone to take care of their day-to-day living, the number of carers in Hong Kong is likely to be higher, as those looking after persons with intellectual impairment have not been included in the figures. There is, therefore, a need for a more holistic count of the carers in Hong Kong, which would enable a more accurate assessment of their needs and the formulation of more effective policies.

Data and research aside, the EOC recommended that the Government should enhance the capacity of the respite care services which are currently over-subscribed. Reference could be made to overseas jurisdictions where at-home carers are entitled by law to a prescribed period of respite care service – as long as 84 days in Japan and 63 in Australia – while care facilities or professional caregivers take their place on a temporary basis, giving them a timeout to destress. In Hong Kong, the scarcity of land and the shortage of staff in healthcare institutions mean that the Government must also think outside the box to fill the gap, for example by training people in the neighbourhood where the PWD or elder lives.

In relation to the “Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Low-income Carers of Persons with Disabilities” and the “Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Carers of Elderly Persons from Low-income Families”, the EOC called on the Government to consider: (i) regularising the schemes; (ii) easing the restriction on recipients of the Old Age Living Allowance – many of whom are carers themselves – from benefiting from the schemes; and (iii) reviewing the assumption that recipients of the Disability Allowance cannot be “fit and capable” carers and thus are not entitled to allowances under the schemes.

The EOC also made a series of recommendations aimed at improving the service quality of residential care homes. For more details, please click the link below.