The Social Security Allowance (SSA) Scheme is a social security scheme in Hong Kong which was created to provide financial assistance for needy individuals and families up to a prescribed level so that their daily needs can be fulfilled. The SSA Scheme is necessary because without it, many people who live in Hong Kong today would not be able to ensure that their basic daily needs would be met. The SSA Scheme includes several different elements such as the Normal Old Age Living Allowance, Higher Old Age Living Allowance, Old Age Allowance, Normal Disability Allowance, Higher Disability Allowance, Fujian Scheme, and Guangdong Scheme. The Old Age Allowance and both forms of Disability Allowance are intended to provide a monthly allowance to Hong Kong residents who are at least 70 years old or who are severely disabled. This allowance will allow all of their personal needs in their daily lives to be satisfied. to meet their special needs arising from old age or disability respectively. The Old Age Living Allowance provides a monthly allowance to supplement the living expenses of Hong Kong residents who are at least 65 years old and require a form of financial support. The Guangdong Scheme and the Fujian Scheme serve to provide Old Age Allowance on a monthly basis for all eligible Hong Kong residents who are at least 65 years old and choose to live in either of China’s provinces of Guangdong or Fujian to meet their needs which have arisen from their advanced age. Except for applicants for Normal Old Age Living Allowance, Higher Old Age Living Allowance, and applicants for either the Fujian Scheme or Guangdong Scheme who are between 65 and 69 years old, anyone who applies for allowances which are part of the SSA Scheme do not have to undergo any tests before applying.
Origins of the Social Security Allowance Scheme
Prior to 1971, social security in Hong Kong was unofficial and informal. Its scope was also restricted because of the relative weakness of the Social Welfare Department which only came into existence in 1958. In its early years, the government restricted the role of the Social
Welfare Department and emphasized the role of family in social welfare. However, this scenario began to change as the years passed. Long-term social welfare plans gradually came to be accepted by Hong Kong’s general populace, especially in the 1970s. The first public assistance scheme in Hong Kong was introduced in 1971. Today, this scheme serves as the foundation of Hong Kong’s social security system. Together with the Social Allowance Scheme (today known as the Social Security Allowance Scheme) introduced in 1973, they have since been the primary components of Hong Kong’s social security system. In the 1980s, the Hong Kong government’s expenses continued to increase. In 1993, the public assistance scheme was rebranded as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme. Its benefits were also increased. This led to one of the largest increases in social welfare expenditure in Hong Kong’s history. By 1995, there were approximately 140,000 people (2% of the population) who were receiving benefits from the scheme; most such people were the elderly, the critically ill, and people with disabilities. Today, social welfare programs in Hong Kong have developed to a point where they have received much acclaim from various figures around the world.
Eligibility for the SSA Scheme’s Benefits
Before anyone can be deemed eligible for the benefits offered by the SSA Scheme, such a person is required to have fulfilled the eligibility criteria which include requirements pertaining to one’s residence. Those who are to be eligible recipients of the SSA Scheme’s benefits have to be residing in Hong Kong while they are receiving the allowance on offer unless they are benefiting from either the Fujian Scheme or the Guangdong Scheme. Those eligible for either of these schemes must be residing in the province of China which corresponds to the name of the scheme in order to be eligible for the benefits provided.
SSA Scheme Residential Requirements
The residential requirements for one to benefit from the SSA Scheme include the fact that the recipient must have been a Hong Kong resident for a minimum of seven years while also having resided in Hong Kong continuously for at least one year directly before the date of application. Absence from Hong Kong for 56 days or less during the one-year period directly preceding the date of application is regarded as residence in Hong Kong. However, such does not necessarily have to be the case when the applicant is applying for a Disability Allowance and is involved in full-time study abroad or if the applicant is involved in paid employment outside Hong Kong during the one-year period. Documentation is to be supplied as evidence of either. Should an applicant have been absent from Hong Kong for more than 56 days during the one-year period in order to receive medical treatment abroad, the usual regulations regarding the 56-day limit may be waived if sufficient documentation and evidence of this medical treatment is appropriately provided. Any person who is in Hong Kong illegally as well as any person who is legally permitted to stay in Hong Kong for a purpose besides that of residence is not allowed to claim the benefits of the SSA Scheme. Any Hong Kong resident who is 18 years old or younger and is applying for a Disability Allowance is exempted from the aforementioned residence requirements. Unless the applicant continues to reside in Hong Kong while receiving the SSA Scheme’s payments, the applicant will be deemed ineligible except in the respective cases of the Guangdong Scheme and Fujian Scheme. Those who are in prison are also ineligible to receive the benefits of the SSA Scheme.
Normal Disability Allowance
To be eligible for this allowance, one must have been certified by the Director of Health, Chief Executive, Hospital Authority, or one of a select few registered medical practitioners of a private hospital as a person with a severe disability. Such a disability must also persist for a minimum duration of six months in order for the person to be eligible.
Higher Disability Allowance
Most of the eligibility criteria for this allowance are the same as those which are in effect for eligibility for the Normal Disability allowance; however, there are also some additional criteria to be fulfilled. To be eligible for the Higher Disability Allowance, one must have been certified by the Director of Health, Chief Executive, Hospital Authority, or one of a select few registered medical practitioners of a private hospital as a person who is in need of constant attendance from others in the daily life of the person applying. Such a person must also not be receiving care in either any residential institution which is being subsidized by the government or any public hospitals or institution which operates under the Hospital Authority. This person also may not be boarding in any special school operating under the Education Bureau.
Old Age Allowance
The applicant must be at least 70 years old.
Normal Old Age Living Allowance / Higher Old Age Living Allowance
The applicant must be at least 65 years old and have monthly income and assets at a value which does not exceed the prescribed limits.
Old Age Allowance Under Guangdong Scheme / Fujian Scheme
The applicant must be at least 65 years old and residing in either Guangdong or Fujian during receipt of the payment. If the applicant is between 65 and 69 years old, the applicant must have monthly income and assets at a value which does not exceed the prescribed limits. If the applicant is an authorized public rental housing tenant in Hong Kong, the applicant is required to turn in the public rental housing unit or remove the applicant’s name from the tenancy before leaving Hong Kong.