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Speech by Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food

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Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Mrs Carrie Yau Tsang Ka-lai, on "Integrated Approach in Welfare Services" at the St. James' Settlement 52nd Annual General Meeting today (November 18):

The Right Reverend Tsui, Mr. Lai, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to take part in this, the 52nd Annual General Meeting of the St. James' Settlement today. Established in 1949, St. James' has contributed in many ways to the development of social welfare in Hong Kong. I am particularly impressed by the fact that St. James' has always kept abreast of the social changes throughout the years. St. James' not only excels in its quality provision of mainstream services, but also ventures into new service modes, such as the Action Plan for Street Sleepers. Your genuine care for marginalised groups, and your striving for excellence in service delivery, have been widely recognised and commended by the community.

Integrated Approach: Policy Perspective

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I have been asked today to say a few words about integration of welfare services. In this context, I notice that one of the key measures you have adopted in the area of service improvement has been the introduction of an integrated and holistic approach to service delivery. This is one of the key directions which the Government has been promoting in the welfare sector over the past decade. We highlighted the need for integration as early as in 1991, in the White Paper entitled "Social Welfare Into the 1990s and Beyond". With the passage of time, we remain convinced that greater integration will allow for more flexible and cost-effective utilisation of our limited resources, and will enable us to better serve the needs of our clients. Only by using such an approach can we address the difficulties brought about by the compartmentalisation of clients' needs, and the fragmentation of service provision.

Different Modes of Integrated Services

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Integration of service can be effected by using different forms. One of the latest models introduced, is to establish services for different age and client groups at one location. Such services can either be run by a single service provider or by a number of providers in a strategic alliance. Taking account of locational considerations, this form of integration may best fit in newly-developed areas such as Tung Chung. You would be aware that two Integrated Service Centres have already been established there.

Another model involves integration of different services for a specific target group. This model has been widely adopted and rolled out to a number of service areas. One of the earliest models is the Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres, formerly known as Integrated Teams, which comprise children and youth centres, outreach social work teams, and school social work services. To date, 115 Centres are up and running.

Another more recent example is the launch of 15 pilot Integrated Family Service Centres. These Centres seek to provide a continuum of preventive, supportive and remedial services for families, through linking up Family Resource Units, Family Support Units and Family Counseling Units. We have had the benefit of your strong support and one of the centres is being operated by St. James today in Wanchai. On the elderly side, we are launching a re-engineering exercise with a view to setting up Neighbourhood Elderly Centres and District Elderly Community Centres by integrating existing Day Care Centres, Multi-service Centres and Social Centres.

Apart from integration within the welfare sector, cross-sectoral service integration and collaboration have also been encouraged. For example, the provision of enhanced home and community care services starting last year, involves cross-sectoral integration in the form of a strategic alliance between welfare and medical service providers through the purchase of medical or para-medical services.

In this connection, we have been taking active steps to strengthen the interface between welfare and other sectors. To maximise synergy with other sectors, the Social Welfare Department holds regular liaison meetings with various Government departments to seek enhanced collaboration, so as to maximise the impact of existing services and to explore new ground for cooperation. In this way, we have achieved breakthroughs in a number of areas including case referrals amongst departments and with NGOs, and the use of indoor recreation centres at night for young night drifters etc.

Academic Support

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Clearly, these integrated service models should be the direction for future welfare service provision. This is supported by academics. Many of you will recall that the Review of the Children and Youth Centre Service recommended that an integrated and holistic approach should be adopted to meet the changing needs of our young people in a more effective and efficient manner. As regards the family, the Review of Family Services conducted by the University of Hong Kong gave rise to the setting up of the 15 pilot Integrated Family Service Centres.

Favourable Factors

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The promotion of these integrated service models has been facilitated by a number of factors. Under the Lump Sum Grant subvention system, NGOs today enjoy greater autonomy to meet ever-changing social demands. I am pleased to learn that you will adopt this subvention mode in the coming year.@ Moreover, the enhanced awareness and importance attached to good corporate governance helps ensure that NGO Boards, who are tasked to provide a strategic steer and guidance to their organisations, effectively monitor their management and deliver accountability to stakeholders.

In addition to re-engineering existing service units, an integrated approach is also encouraged in developing new service areas. Take street sleepers as an example. With assistance from your organisation as well as two other NGOs, a three-year Action Plan was launched last year which was an integrated approach by providing a continuum of services including midnight outreach visits, counselling, employment advice, job placement service, accommodation, emergency funds as well as other follow-up services. Round-the-clock integrated services are also provided in the Family Crisis Support Centre and the Suicidal Crisis Centre. So, the direction is clear.

Conclusion

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The integrated approach will be the dominant mode of service delivery in the coming years. This is a world-wide trend that is taking root in Hong Kong. Apart from furthering the integration of welfare services, we, in the Government, will work to extend integration between sectors, in particular focusing on the health and education sectors. In the final analysis, this is the only sure way to ensure that the needs of people are taken care of in a holistic and comprehensive manner. We are most grateful to the Welfare sector and your agency in particular, in supporting this directional change. And I look forward to your unfailing support on this front, in future. Thank you very much and may I wish you every success in your future endeavours.

End/Monday, November 18, 2002

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