In the field of social
welfare, there are 2 major issues in the coming
The first is related with funding. In the past
few years, the funding issues the social welfare
sector in Hong Kong has to face are mainly related
with the government's reform on social welfare
subvention. This is no longer an issue as a result
of the 'Special One-off Grant' although it is
not totally acceptable.
Ever since then, the social welfare sector finds
itself in a completely new funding environment.
Two major concerns came up. The first one is that
the government and other funding bodies are placing
great importance on the value for money. There
is nothing inherently wrong on 'value for money'.
We have an obligation to use public money carefully
and wisely, whether it comes from the government
or donations. The problem is that it has gone
to such an extreme that the required workload
is beyond the capacity of the manpower afforded
by the budget. The problems and pressure caused
by the funding and service agreement from the
Social Welfare Department is one of the best illustrations.
The second concern is that funding bodies are
shifting to a 'project-based' approach. Again,
there is nothing inherently wrong with project-based
funding. However, when there are more projects,
more administrative support will be required.
Unfortunately, the trend is that administrative
work has become a very low priority in any funding.
Ironically, public inspiration for better management
is growing but resources for that area is dwindling.
The funding bodies and the public must change
their mentality and put the funding requirement
of the social welfare sector in the right perspective.
The second issue is the lack of a planning mechanism
on social welfare. The past system of green papers,
white papers and 5-year plan reviews are no longer
in place. Government has been talking of setting
up a new system that will bring about more flexibility
and realistic planning. Regrettably, there is
no timetable for this despite that it has been
in discussion for more than 5 years.
A planning mechanism is like a road map. It is
essential to help channel resources in the proper
directions and acts as a base to form a united
conscience for all stakeholders. Recently, it
appears to be relatively quiet in the field of
social welfare. That does not mean that there
are no problems. In fact, it is not a healthy
sign as hidden problems will get more serious
and become out of hand.
Looking forward to 2006, funding and planning
mechanism are the 2 major issues that have to
be dealt with in order that social welfare can
respond better to the needs of our community.