Hong Kong government to regularise special care subsidy for severely disabled persons

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7th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Community Care Fund launched the Special Care Subsidy for the Severely Disabled in 2011 to provide severely disabled persons living in the community and not receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) with a subsidy for purchasing care goods and services, or for other purposes related to nursing care. However, some disabled persons have relayed that the costs of buying, repairing and maintaining medical equipment or rehabilitation products are expensive, posing a heavy financial burden on low-income physically handicapped persons (PHPs), bedridden persons with severe intellectual disabilities, and persons with hearing impairment who are not receiving CSSA.

In response to a question raised in the Legislative Council, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, has announced that the Government will regularise the Special Care Subsidy in October 2023 with the eligibility criteria unchanged, while the monthly full grant will be raised from $2,000 to $2,500 to strengthen support to persons with severe disabilities in need.

Currently, the Integrated Support Service for Persons with Severe Physical Disabilities (ISS) provides cash subsidies, including the Special Subsidy for Renting Respiratory Support Medical Equipment (RSME) and the Special Subsidy for Purchasing Medical Consumables Related to RSME, on an actual reimbursement basis to eligible RSME dependents. The ISS also provides assessments by physiotherapists and occupational therapists to ensure the rehabilitation consumables suit the needs of service users.

Moreover, the rehabilitation service units and medical social workers under the Social Welfare Department (SWD) have all along been cooperating with medical professionals to provide persons with disabilities and their families with emotional counseling, referrals to required services and community resources, and assisting persons with disabilities in need to apply for financial assistance, including charitable trust funds administered by the SWD or set up by other organizations, in order to procure/repair wheelchairs and meet expenses on related rehabilitation consumables. All of the above existing services/subsidies support persons with severe disabilities not on CSSA.

As for PHPs aged 60 to under 65 who are not only unable to apply for the Special Subsidy but also not eligible to apply for the Old Age Living Allowance, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare stated that the SWD will arrange for social workers to contact them and their families proactively to provide assistance and support.

While applications for the CSSA Scheme are made on a household basis in accordance with the principle that members of the same family should support each other, the SWD may consider allowing a person to apply for the CSSA Scheme independently in view of special circumstances of the case. Where a person indicates the need to apply for the CSSA Scheme independently due to problems among family members (e.g. poor relationship), the SWD will refer the case to social service units for assistance. If the situation does not improve with the assistance of social workers, the SWD may consider allowing the applicant in need to apply for the CSSA Scheme independently on a discretionary basis in view of special circumstances of the case.

The Government implements a non-contributory social security system to provide suitable assistance for people with different needs. The system comprises the CSSA Scheme and the Social Security Allowance Scheme (including Old Age Living Allowance, Old Age AllowanceDisability Allowance (DA), Guangdong Scheme and Fujian Scheme). The DA aims to help persons assessed to have severe disabilities meet their special needs arising from disability. Recipients are provided with the Normal or Higher DA (at $2,005 and $4,010 per month respectively) according to their severity of disability. CSSA recipients with disabilities are also provided with a number of supplements and special grants to cater to their special needs, e.g. grant to cover costs of medical, rehabilitation, surgical appliances, and hygienic items.