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Budget 2024: Government to increase Care Service Vouchers and Digital Support for Elderly

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivers the budget address at the Legislative Council this morning. Photo by Elaine LAI Uen Ling

The government will increase the number of vouchers to help elderly people afford in-home care and elderly care centres as well as provide funding for the elderly to learn digital skills.

However, local social workers say this fails to address many problems for the elderly.

The number of Community Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly age in place,  will increase to 11,000 at a cost of about HK$900 million, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in the budget address this morning.

From the second quarter of this year, the number of Residential Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly pay for services in care centres, will increase to 5,000, involving an annual expenditure of about $1.44 billion overall.

The government plans to set aside $100 million from the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund to help people aged 60 or above get equipped with digital skills and technical support.

At least 50,000 elderly individuals are expected to benefit from the first round of projects, which are expected to begin at the end of 2024.

Tony Fung, 30, a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon, said the plans mentioned this year are not in line with real problems elderly residents face.

“At the centre, we are already teaching our elderly residents how to use smartphones and computers. I hope that the government can help in transforming service centres and update their services,” he said.

Fung said the government should assess the waiting time for admissions into elderly care homes and increase expenditure where necessary.

The average waiting time for a bedridden person to be admitted to an elderly care home takes around 18 months, Fung said.

Cindy Chan, 40, is a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon. A 15-year veteran, she hopes the government can enhance residential respite care services.

“Some of us are working long hours and we feel irritated at times. We understand the nature of our work, but I would like to see an increase in support for us caregivers,” she said.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Christian Service consisting of 499 carers of the elderly revealed that the main source of pressure was long periods of working alone, with 27.7% saying that they had to spend more than eight hours a day caring for the elderly.

In last year’s budget, the government said that it would inject about $430 million into assistance measures for carers, including a designated hotline for carer support, which has been in operation since September 2023.

“Stable mental health is important in this field, but I would like to see the government provide more training and talent-seeking to resolve the decreasing number of caregivers as the workload can be burdening,” she said.

“I’m an elderly myself. I can understand the hardships that some of us face every day. I want to be able to live as comfortably as possible. But I suppose current affairs make it difficult for now,” said Chan Kue-ting, 71, an elderly representative at Caritas Hong Kong.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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