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Position paper to the LegCo Panel on Welfare Services on Carer's Support

Set up in 1981, the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centers have always fought for the rights and situations of women and carers. No one is born to be a carer. Being a carer should be a choice instead of an obligation. However, in traditional society women often have to take up the role of family carers.

 

The HKFWC has served many carers, most of whom said that their work is heavy and lonely. Furthermore, the inadequate support for carers in the community has put tremendous pressure on them and even affected their emotions and mental wellness, but they do not know where to seek help.

 

We have conducted a survey on the Mental Health and Quality of Sleep of Caregivers in 2017 and interviewed 243 women carers. Over half of them have a stress score of over 15, meaning that they have a tendency for depression. And over ten per cent of the interviewees suffers from serious depression, which shows that the pressure carers have to face is approaching tipping points and undermining their mental health. The government should address the needs of carers, implement a comprehensive carer policy, set up a carer database, push forward with carer-oriented services, and extend the eligible groups for carer subsidies to cater to their needs.

 

Implementation of Carer's Policy

A carer policy is nothing new, but an issue that governments around the world are paying attention to. The International Alliance of Carer Organization has defined carers as those who care for the disabled, chronic disease patients, patients cognitive frailty with no pay. The Australian government has passed the Carer Endorsement Bill in 2010 to acknowledge their values and contributions and offer support to carers. Governments in England, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the United States also offer leaves and subsidies to active carers. In Taiwan, the government has allocated tremendous resources to avoid tragedies in the community, such as via offering respite care since 1998, which was subsequently developed into a long-term caring scheme and has a history of 20 years.

 

In contrast, carers in Hong Kong are an underprivileged group. Carer services are often attached to the services of those who require care. For example, elderly health centres will offer services for those who care for the elderly, while mental rehabilitation centres will offer support to their families. Should a carer need to take care of three different family members, she will have to run between different organizations. This is a big problem for carers who often lack enough rest. A comprehensive carer policy is particularly crucial so that the direction of the carer services in Hong Kong can be more consistent to integrate different resources and offer pertinent and targeted services to carers.

 

Carer's Database

Enacting a carer policy requires hostile carer statistical data so as to understand the actual status of society. Currently, if an organization wants to know the situations of carers, they can only deduce an approximate number of carers from scattered data, such as the population of elders living together, the number of pupils with special learning needs, the population of the disabled living together, and the population of chronic patients. It is estimated that there are over 520,000 carers. The baby boomer generation is getting old. The Census and Statistics Department forecasts that the elder population over 65 will soar from 1.16 million in 2016 to 2.28 million in 2034, which means that there will be even more carers in Hong Kong. The government should make reference to foreign countries, define carers to push forward with the relevant policies, and integrate assorted data related to carers, such as finding out their situations and caring status in the population census.

 

Promotion of Carer-oriented Service

It is likely that carers may lose themselves when they are caring. This is a highly alarming situation since it will be too late when carers realize there's something wrong with their health conditions. Many carers stay at home and it's not easy to locate them and offer assistance. Some of them told us that they do not know there is such kind of service for carers. And even if they do know there are supporting organizations, they would rather not use the services since they are too scattered and it will be too time-consuming to run around.

 

The carer scattered services are categorized according to those who receive care. This, along with the lack of information of service users and carers, is hindering carers from getting resources. Hence, a comprehensive carer support centre is necessary to centralize resources and release of information, while providing care and emotional support to carers. It will also be more convenient for carers in different districts to seek help.

 

Extending the Eligible Groups for Carer's Allowance

Extending the eligible groups for carer's allowance is a crucial step. Currently, there are only the Pilot Schemes on Living Allowance for Carers of Persons with Disabilities and Elderly from Low-income Families, which has strict application criteria. Since the schemes are pegged to the waiting services, only invited carers can participate, which ignores the needs of other carers. The objective of the subsidy is to acknowledge the needs of carers while providing a social security net to those who require financial aid. This can serve as an additional social protection policy for the grassroots apart from the CSSA. The government should review the purpose of the subsidy and extend the eligible group to carers of different categories, such as childcarers, and delink the subsidy with "waiting services" so that carers can apply according to their needs. As an important part of the carer policy, the carer subsidy should have a strong commitment to the grassroots carers.

 

Carers have always been a neglected vulnerable group, but they are also contributing to society silently. The tragedies in recent years are reminding us that social problems should be solved by society, and caring responsibilities should not be carers' own personal responsibilities.

Media Enquiry

Mr Alvin Chung

Senior Development Officer

alvin.chung@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2748 8105