Lam unveils new benefits for elderly after CSSA backlash

January 18, 2019 15:41
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announces a subsidy of HK$1,060 for  senior citizens aged 60 to 64 to make up for the shortfall in their welfare benefits under the revised CSSA scheme, during a press conference on Friday. Photo: HKEJ

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor rolled out a fresh package of welfare benefits for senior citizens who will be affected by the government's decision to raise the age requirement for eligibility under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme for the elderly from next month.

Under the supplementary scheme, which also takes effect from Feb. 1, senior citizens aged 60 to 64 who are applicants for the CSSA benefits, will receive an additional HK$1,060 a month to make up for the shortfall in their welfare payments due to the new age requirement, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The administration unveiled the supplementary benefits after both pan-democratic and pro-establishment lawmakers assailed the chief executive for raising the minimum age requirement for the elderly CSSA benefits to 65 from 60 at present.

Announcing the additional benefits at a press conference on Friday, Lam said the “employment support supplement” scheme includes both welfare and labor initiatives.

She said applicants do not need to file an application or submit any proof for the additional amount, which is aimed at encouraging the recipients to enter the labor market. There will be no extra administrative costs either.

As regards the labor component of the supplementary scheme, Lam said unskilled workers hired by government contractors from Dec. 10 last year to March 31 this year will have new contract terms starting April, including statutory paid leave, contract gratuities and allowance for working during a typhoon.

The chief executive was joined in the press conference by several of her officials, including Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau Yee-cheung, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, Director of Social Welfare Carol Yip Man-kuen and Principal Assistant Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Treasury) Tracy Chu Lai-fong.

She stressed that the new initiatives should not be seen as "backing down, or yielding to pressure or being populist" but a correction of what she admitted were mistakes in the implementation process, RTHK reported.

Earlier in the day, 11 pan-democratic lawmakers marched to the Chief Executive's Office, protesting that Lam only met with pro-establishment lawmakers to discuss the elderly CSSA scheme.

During a question and answer session at the Legislative Council on Thursday last week, lawmakers from both camps accused Lam of trying to escape responsibility for the change in the elderly CSSA scheme by saying that the measure was included in the budget bill that Legco approved.

A week later, the lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to ask the government to shelve the controversial measure.

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