Thursday, 15 September 2011

HK's Poor Left Behind

Following my post yesterday about how wasteful Hong Kongers are and that the government does little to help those in need, today the media is reporting almost one-fifth of people in the city live below the poverty line according to a report compiled by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.

The umbrella organization for voluntary agencies and NGOs says the lack of services for the poor and disabled is alarming, with waiting lists for some services more than six years in some districts.
 
The welfare body says of the seven areas that need the most help are services for the elderly and handicapped as well as poverty alleviation and housing.
 
Council chief executive Christine Fang Meng-sang said central and local planning was needed. "With so many living below the poverty line in a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, it would be a big mistake to ignore the needs of the poor."
 
The council said 18 percent of Hong Kong's population earned only half the median income -- a three-person household may earn just HK$7,000 ($898.38) a month.
 
Yuen Long was the worst-affected district, with 23.5 percent living below the poverty line and Kwun Tong and Sham Shui Po following with 22 percent.
 
It's also interesting to note that the number of poverty alleviation groups in district councils has dropped from nine in 2006 to just one in Sham Shui Po last year.
 
How and why did that happen?
 
Then there are the appallingly long lineups for special social services. A centre for handicapped children has a 19-month waiting list in Southern District -- the longest in the city. Then a spot in a sheltered workshop for the mentally handicapped can be a 76-month wait in Northern District. The queue for a daily activity centre for the seriously mentally handicapped is 54 months in Taipo.
 
The council's business director for policy advocacy and social enterprise Chua Hoi-wai said this shows that supply cannot even begin to meet demand.
 
While the council says it has had discussions with district council candidates hoping they will take up the cause with elections coming up and is hopeful something will be done, it's really up to the government to address the issue.
 
Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the Labour and Welfare Bureau said there was a decrease in the number of people living in poverty and that the government "attaches great importance to poverty alleviation work" and "adopts a multi-pronged approach to tackle poverty". The measures include education, social security and minimum wage, she added.

The annual expenditure on welfare is expected to reach HK$147.5 billion in 2011-12, with the money spent in such things as training and vocational-rehabilitation training and pre-school services. The government also plans to finance 1,500 more home care places for the frail elderly as well as more day care spots for the elderly in the coming year.

I want to know how many poverty alleviation groups there are, why the numbers have dropped off and if they really were able to help people. 

But more importantly why are there such long waits for social services? No wonder parents are at their wits' end looking after mentally and physically handicapped children on their own as well as looking after their elderly parents who can't afford to live in old folks homes, waiting years for a spot.

It's times like these where I and many others would rather our HK$6,000 payout go to these people instead of us. Imagine the billions of dollars that could be helping these people. The government has no foresight in looking after its own.

1 comment:

  1. the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening more and more. it sows the seed of social discontent and subsequent unrest. tax the rich to the max is the answer.

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