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This page is updated on 2006-07-27 12:04
Christian Service News

Issue 50 (January 2006)

Chief Executive's Column
Looking Forward to 2006
Chief Exectuive NG Shui Lai

In the field of social welfare, there are 2 major issues in the coming year.

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.


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