IV. Social Services for an Ageing Society
To speed up the building of a social service system suitable for an ageing society is an important measure to meet elderly people's growing needs for social services. In recent years, the Chinese government has made great efforts to develop community services for the aged and to continually improve elderly people's living environment. Meanwhile, social service institutions for the aged are being encouraged to meet seniors' needs for diversified social services. So far, a social service system for the elderly has taken initial shape, based on family care for the aged, and supported by community services and supplemented by institutional services for seniors.
The state has promulgated a series of policies and documents, such as Opinions on Promoting Urban Community Construction Nationwide and Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Community Services, and has taken active measures, increased its input, strengthened community construction and service work, so as to provide diversified and more convenient services to community residents, including the aged, and to constantly improve the social service environment for them.
By the end of 2005, there were 195,000 urban community service amenities and 8,479 comprehensive social service centers in China. Family visits, regular service provided at fixed venues, and mobile service are available in most places, providing care and housekeeping services, emergency aid, and other free or reduced-payment services for the aged.
In the period 2001-2004, the Chinese government invested a total of 13.4 billion yuan in the "Starlight Program" to build community welfare service facilities for seniors. The program helped to set up 32,000 "Starlight Centers for Seniors," which provide family visit, emergency aid, day care, health and healing services, and organize recreational activities, benefiting over 30 million elderly people. In 2005, there was an average of 1.32 urban welfare institutions for seniors in every community committee, and one such institution for every 9.8 neighborhood committees.
In recent years, the state has increased its investment in the building of social welfare institutions, targeting elderly people who have lost the ability to work, who have no source of income, and who have no legal guardians whatsoever to support them, or their guardians do not have the ability to support them. The government actively promotes the construction of senior citizens' lodging houses, elderly people's homes and nursing homes for the aged, to provide institutional services for seniors with different financial and physical conditions, especially those over 80, sick and disabled.
The building of elderly people's homes is also promoted in rural areas for people in the "five guarantees" category. The government has issued policy documents including Opinions on Accelerating Socialized Welfare Services and Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Social Services for the Aged to speed up the development of institutional social services for the aged. Various modes are encouraged to mobilize social resources for this purpose: state built and privately run, privately operated with government support, government subsidy, and services purchased by government.
By the end of 2005, there were 39,546 institutions providing services for seniors, such as social welfare institutions for the aged, elderly people's homes, senior citizens' lodging houses, and nursing homes for the aged, with a total of 1,497 million beds, including 29,681 rural elderly people's homes with 895,000 beds. The state has intensified its administration of standardized social institutional services for the aged by issuing the Assessment Standard for State-level Social Welfare Institutions for the Aged and the Basic Norms for Social Welfare Institutions for the Aged, to improve the quality and level of such services.
The Chinese government is endeavoring to train management and service personnel to provide services for the aged through educational course in school, work-and-learning programs and on-the-job training. The Provisional Regulations on the System of Assessing the Professional Level of Social Workers and the Methods for Implementing Professional Proficiency Tests for Social Workers, both promulgated by the state, encourage professional social workers and college graduates majoring in social work to work in social welfare institutions.
The government has also laid down the standards and qualifications for the occupation of professional nurses for the aged, in order to strengthen the building of professionalism and standardization of this contingent. By the end of 2005, nearly 20,000 people had obtained such qualifications.
The government encourages establishment of volunteer organizations to carry out the program known as Golden Sunshine Action throughout the country, has mobilized many teenagers and people of all walks of life to join volunteers to take care of the aged. Their services cover many areas including taking care of seniors' everyday lives and providing medical and health care as well as legal aid by serving in social service institutions for the aged and forming one-on-one relationships with the aged at home. So far, more than 630 million hours of volunteer service have been provided in 13 million cases for over 2.8 million elderly people, and volunteers have set up over 60,000 service centers for the aged.