MOTION ON “IMPLEMENTING ‘CARER-CENTRIC’ POLICY”
Deputy President, carers are a very large group of people in society. According to the findings of the Survey on the Respite Needs of Carers published by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service in 2021, currently, about 860 000 elderly people with caring needs are living with their family members in Hong Kong. In addition, there are 120 000 persons with chronic diseases and 140 000 persons with disabilities who are taken care of by their family members at home. So, the number of carers in Hong Kong is estimated to be as high as 1.12 million, yet the approximately 70 000 to 100 000 carers of persons with intellectual disabilities have not been counted in it. Besides, as shown by the data of the Legislative Council research, the proportion of persons with disabilities who are mainly taken care of by their family members increased from 51% in 2001 to 70% in 2015.
Deputy President, in fact, before my mother who suffered from a rare disease passed away, my family members and I were carers for her. A patient often needs more than one carer to meet his or her daily needs. Undoubtedly, catering for the needs of elderly people and persons with disabilities can be extremely stressful for carers. Some care recipients have to wait for years before they can receive the services they require; respite service places are always full; and carers have to spend a lot of time and energy caring for others, even affecting their jobs, social life and family income. Perhaps, the biggest problem faced by carers today is the lack of emergency or respite services in the community. When a carer is experiencing exceptional circumstances or is unwell, but has nowhere to talk about their pain and seek effective support, it not only reduces the quality of care but also causes carers to be overburdened with excessive pressure and become physically and mentally overwhelmed. From my family’s experience, primary carers are prone to suffer from depression.
With the rapid ageing of the population and the trend towards smaller household size, it is very difficult to rely on individual family members to take on the caring responsibility alone, and most elderly people and persons with disabilities want to continue living in their own communities, so carers are playing an indispensable role. Society should recognize the contribution of carers and protect their basic rights and interests.
Nowadays, many countries and regions have specific policies and legislation in place to support carers, recognizing their statutory rights to receive various types of government support services. For example, in the United Kingdom, legislation was enacted in 2006 to give carers the right to request flexible work arrangements; in Japan, Sweden and Canada, working carers are also entitled to statutory care leave of at least 13 weeks. In contrast, Hong Kong lacks this kind of policy support for carers. The support services provided at present are rather fragmented and mostly categorized according to the needs of care recipients. With different service units for different care recipients, people need to travel to different places when applying for services, which not only leads to duplication of services but also causes a lot of trouble and stress for carers.
Throughout our lives, most of us have the experience of taking care of others or even being taken care of at different stages. I am filled with all sorts of feelings when it comes to the plight and helplessness of carers.
I would like to thank Mr Stanley LI for proposing this motion to urge the Government to implement the “carer-centric” policy, so that the community can be concerned about their situation and provide timely measures and appropriate support. The Government should establish a policy on carers’ assistance as soon as possible, taking into account carers’ perspectives and giving more consideration to the various problems faced by carers. This includes regularizing the pilot scheme on carer allowance, setting up flexible work arrangements to suit the carers’ status, establishing a comprehensive and easily accessible information platform, and―the proposal that I supported during my speech on the Member’s motion on “Enhancing support for carers” last year―expanding the quota and scope of the Pilot Scheme on Training for Foreign Domestic Helpers in Elderly Care. Moreover, the Government should consolidate and optimize existing resources to establish a one-stop service, so as to centralize the resources of carer services in Hong Kong and unify the dissemination of information. This will not only reduce the social cost of overlapping services but also provide appropriate support and services to carers.
Deputy President, with these remarks, I support the original motion and the amendment.