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Christian Service News

Issue 58 (January 2008)

Chief Executive's Column

Ng Shui Lai

Social Welfare Funding and the Role of NGOs

In view of the recent outcries against the Lump Sum Grant (LSG), the government has decided to appoint an independent commission for a comprehensive review on this matter.

Social welfare services in Hong Kong are mainly operated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Although funding for such services does not come solely from the government, the majority of it does and is done through social welfare subvention. The LSG is a subvention mode started since 2000.

Over the years the funding party, the Social Welfare Department has taken a very conservative and unreasonable interpretation of the LSG system in its implementation. NGOs cannot survive under such arrangement. This is why there are so many outcries recently against the system.

The coming review no doubt should look into the implementation problems but it must not just stop there. It should also look into the fundamental issues such as the main purpose of the LSG and whether the present arrangement achieves such a purpose. If the main purpose of the LSG is to provide a funding system that can achieve the greatest results in providing welfare services to the needy, then there are questions that need to be answered. For instance: Are all NGOs suitable to be service providers under such a system? If not, what kinds of NGOs are suitable? What is the government’s role in the development of NGOs? What is the government’s responsibility in the provision of social welfare services besides those under the LSG? All these are difficult questions but need to be answered.

An NGO should also take this time to review its mission and vision, and to examine its role as a service provider under the LSG.

The review of the LSG provides an opportunity for the whole welfare sector to take a good look at the current social welfare provision in Hong Kong. We should look beyond the funding issue and work out all outstanding issues together for the betterment of the needy people.