THE government was urged to scrap an upcoming amendment to the eligibility age for the elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA, 綜合社會保障援助計劃) in a non-binding motion on 16 January.
In a rare scene at the Legislative Council (立法會), both pro-democracy and proestablishment camps criticised the adjustment of CSSA recipients from 60 to 65 years on 1 February.
The age adjustment was an item in the 2018/19 budget, approved by 40 establishment lawmakers and three from the democratic camp in May.
After the new adjustment, CSSA recipients between the ages of 60 to 64 will get the basic HK$2,455 allowance for able-bodied adults, while those aged 65 or above will be eligible for the HK$3,485 elderly allowance.
Lawmaker Bottle Shiu Ka-chun (邵家臻), who moved the motion, said the age amendment is an allowance cut in disguise.
He said Secretary for Labour and Welfare (勞工及福利局局長) Law Chi-kwong (羅致光), who used to be a lawmaker, had objected to a cut in CSSA allowances in 1996 and urged high-ranking officials of the then colonial government to talk to poor families in person.
“I wonder whether Law had imagined he would become the secretary for labour and welfare 20 years later and face the same situation himself,” Shiu said.
The colonial government conducted the Hong Kong Basic Need Study (香港基本生活需要研究), which calculated the price change of basic necessities, in 1996.
Since then, the CSSA allowance has been adjusted according to the study.
Shiu said the study is outdated as it does not include items that have become necessary as society evolves, such as mobile phones.
He described the adjustment as a measure that puts the cart before the horse, and thinks the government should opt to help the elderly find jobs instead of cutting their welfare allowance.
Lawmaker Leung Che-cheung (梁志祥) also criticised the government for ignoring public opinion and skipping the welfare services panel meeting before electing to enforce the amendment.
Both camps led their supporters to protest against the age change in front of the Legislative Council in the morning before the meeting started.
At a Public Works Subcommittee (工務小組委員會) meeting the same day, establishment lawmakers left the council hall early in a silent protest over Chief Executive (行政長官) Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s (林鄭月娥) remarks that lawmakers had endorsed the CSSA change as part of the budget.
Some establishment lawmakers stayed in the council hall, but asked sarcastic questions, including whether they should scrutinise each project included in the capital works reserve fund block allocations in minute detail.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 25 January 2019)