Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong University (HKU) Family Institute today (October 28):
Professor Tsui, Dr Tang, Dr Lee, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my pleasure to join you here today to celebrate the opening of the Family Institute of the University of Hong Kong. Over the past decade, under the able leadership of Dr Lee and dedication of team members, the Family Clinic, the predecessor of the Family Institute, has provided valuable contributions to the development of family therapy and family oriented clinical practice in Hong Kong. The establishment of the Family Institute bears witness to the excellent work of Dr Lee and her team.
It has been said that family life is the fountain spring of present happiness and future survival of human societies. Indeed, families are vital components of our society. They are a source of strength, providing an intimate environment for mutual support and emotional security of its members, individually and collectively. We are acutely conscious of the multifaceted needs of families and have developed comprehensive health and family welfare services to assist families to discharge their caring and protective functions.
On the social welfare side, the objectives of the family services are to preserve and strengthen the family as a unit, to give assistance and enhance family functioning and to restore families in trouble so that they can regain their self reliance. With these in mind, we provide a wide range of family life education programmes to enhance family functioning, strengthen family relationship and prevent family breakdown. Our endeavours notwithstanding, families do at times encounter difficulties and members may find themselves subject to undue stress and pressure. A good supportive network that provides timely assistance is therefore essential. In this regard, the Social Welfare Department provides an integrated model of family services to strengthen the support for families. This arrangement can be described as a one-stop model which provides a continuum of prevention and intervention services in an open and non-stigmatised environment. The integrated approach is child-centered, family focused and community-based. It emphasizes early identification and treatment of problems. We invest heavily in our family and child services: in 2003-04, the estimated recurrent expenditure in this area of welfare programme is $1.7 billion.
On the health side, the Department of Health specially launched last year a Parenting Programme to promote the health and well-bring of children and families. Through a comprehensive range of activities, including interactive workshops and individual counseling, the programme seeks to enhance the competence of parents and parents-to-be in building positive parent-child relationship, promoting children's development, managing behaviour. For parents who encounter difficulties and those whose children show early signs of behavioural problems, an intensive structured group training programmes on positive parenting skills is provided.
In addition to social welfare and health services, in designing other policies which impact upon the family, the Government also takes into account the needs of families. Examples include tax allowances to alleviate taxpayers' financial burden arising from taking care of their family members, employment policy and legislation to encourage employers to adopt a caring approach and to work out mutually acceptable arrangements in response to employees' needs and those of their families.
Ladies and gentlemen, in pursuing the mission of promoting family well-being, contributions of non-governmental organizations, professional experts and the academia are crucial. Social programmes can only be as good as the people seeking to design and implement them. In this connection, pertinent programme designs require multi-disciplinary collaboration of practitioners and the academia, and it is also built upon a good understanding of the needs of the clients supported by relevant research and studies. I can see the Family Institute will play an important role in promoting trans-disciplinary practice and empirical research on family life. I am sure the Institute would grow from strength to strength and I wish the Institute every success in its endeavours.
Ends/Tuesday, October 28, 2003