Disability allowances can’t follow minimum living index: social welfare chief

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Issue 518, Page 6
Word count: 797
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The government would not pay disabled people monthly allowances based on the minimum living index, Ip Peng Kin, the director of the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS), said at the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Mr Ip attended the plenary meeting at the Assembly to give direct response to lawmaker Au Kam San’s oral interpellation in relation to the government’s various kinds of assistance offered to physically and mentally disadvantaged residents of Macau.

The SAR government announced earlier that they would distribute a monthly allowance of 300 patacas to disabled individuals, which Au questioned the authority whether it was different from the already existing 300 pataca special subsidy.

The lawmaker was also concerned whether 300 patacas were “too little” and proposed to the IAS a fixed financial aid in the amount of no less than the minimum living index of 2,640 patacas as well as free vocational training and medical services to special individuals.

In addition, in the view of the increasing number of parents and carers’ concerns that their children would not be taken care of when they got old or passed away, Au asked the authority the progress of building hostels for disabled that offered mid or long term residential services.

According to the IAS director, the 300 pataca monthly special subsidy was a form of the “financial aid system” which required a review on the applicants’ financial status before the subsidy could be approved.

In contrast, Mr Ip said the proposed disability allowances was a kind of “social subsidy” that was to “express society’s concerns and support” to disabled people who would not need to go through financial reviews.

Thus, the amount set for the allowances must take different factors into consideration, “especially on the aspect of the Macau society’s long term burden and correlation between various welfare systems and community services”, Mr Ip added.

However, the director said the 300 pataca disability allowance was just a “preliminary proposal” and final decision of the amount would be determined by the SAR government after further research was conducted.

In respond to the lawmaker’s suggestion of giving disabled people a fixed financial aid of 2,640 patacas according to the recently raised minimum living index for a household of one, the IAS chief affirmed that it “cannot work out” as the amount was “too high in terms of Macau’s social conditions”.

Mr Ip referred to the example in Hong Kong in which only people who had been graded as “severely handicapped” and confirmed as “in the need of continuous care in daily life” could be given HK$2,340 or MOP2,414 disability allowances.

Vocational training and medical cover

Among the seven vocational rehabilitation institutes sponsored by the SAR government, Mr Ip said only three collected a training fee from 50 patacas to 100 patacas a month.

However, the director added that all the seven institutes at the same time gave each service user an “attendance allowance” from 10 patacas to 40 patacas daily, and two of them even offered a 100 pataca or 500 pataca “outstanding performance award monthly.

Mr Ip said the government supported the collection of service fees in vocational rehabilitation institutes as it could “lift and reinforce service users’ rights and responsibilities”.

Yet Mr Ip said the government’s financial aid system and fees exemption mechanism could provide back up for disabled people in order to ensure that “no one will be refrained from using the services due to financial difficulties”.

As for the topic of providing free medical services to disabled residents, Mr Ip said the SAR government had earlier included such project in the agenda of health authorities, adding the policy was in the progress of being set out which would then be submitted to the rehabilitation affairs commission for advise and finally to the SAR administration for approval.

Residential services for disabled

According to government statistics, Mr Ip said about 40 people, mainly females, were on the waiting list for a placement in both mid-term and long-term hostels.

At a later time this year, the IAS chief said a new women’s rehabilitation hostel would be in operation which could not only accommodate existing users from the old hostel but also provide additional 30 to 40 places.

In addition, areas had been reserved for building facilities of residential services for people with disabilities in public housing projects, Mr Ip said, such as in the Fai Chi Kei social housing construction which would be due in 2009, a hostel with 30 service places would be set up at the same time.

Once the registration system that contained disability evaluation data was in operation, Mr Ip said the SAR government would have “better conditions” in enhancing all kinds of disability projects including residential services in order to offer “more appropriate back-up” for the rehabilitation of physically and mentally disadvantaged people.

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