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LCQ17: Community Work Organisers

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (February 11):


     Some Community Work Organisers (CWOs) who are employed by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) on non-civil service contract terms have relayed to me that they are underpaid and their personal safety at work is not safeguarded.  Their duties include assisting SWD in implementing the Support for Self-reliance Scheme.  Specifically, they arrange for and supervise employable and able-bodied recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to perform mandatory community work.  Yet, three CWOs need to supervise up to 40 participants and have to monitor their performance and discipline.  Hence it is not uncommon for CWOs to have conflicts with unmotivated participants and even be assaulted.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) how SWD determined the remuneration level of CWOs, including the civil service ranks the remunerations of which it has made reference to;

(b) whether SWD regularly reviewed the duties of CWOs and what measures it took to ensure their personal safety, in the past five years; and

(c) whether at present it has plans to include the said posts in the civil service establishment; if not, of the reasons for that?



     The Support for Self-reliance (SFS) Scheme - a programme under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme - aims to encourage and assist able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipients aged 15 to 59 to secure full-time paid employment and move towards self-reliance.  Participating recipients will be arranged to perform community work up to a maximum of three days a week so as to help him/her develop a work habit, improve employability, widen social network, enhance self-esteem, pave the way for eventual gainful employment, and contribute to society in parallel to his job search process while receiving CSSA.

     The Social Welfare Department (SWD) employs Community Work Organisers (CWOs) on non-civil service contract terms during different periods having regard to operational needs.  Currently, SWD has employed 99 CWOs to help implement the SFS Scheme.  They are responsible for arranging and supervising unemployed CSSA recipients to perform community work.

     My replies to the specific questions are as follows:

(a) The CWOs currently employed by the SWD are required to possess an academic qualification equivalent to Form 5 standard and two years' experience in maintaining regular and frequent contact with customers.  Their monthly remunerations range from $8,300 to $9,725.

     At present, there is no grade in the civil service comparable to the posts of CWOs.  To determine their employment conditions and remunerations, SWD will take account of various factors such as the pay trend of posts in the job market with similar entry requirements and qualifications.  SWD also reviews the remuneration of CWOs from time to time to ensure that they are set at a reasonable level.

(b) Since the implementation of the SFS Scheme in 1999, SWD has always been concerned about the occupational safety of CWOs.  In addition to requiring CWOs to follow stringent internal working guidelines, SWD would make assessment on the work sites of CWOs by making reference to the safety guidelines for outdoor work of the Occupational Safety and Health Council, and review from time to time issues relating to the safety of CWOs and participants of the SFS Scheme.  SWD also regularly deploys staff to inspect the sites of community work and keeps close contact with community work providers to ensure that all community work is conducted under a safe environment.

     To maintain order in the sites of community work and prevent work site accidents or violence, SWD has provided all CWOs working outdoor with proper communication devices, including a mobile phone and a walkie-talkie for every CWO.  In addition, all CWOs have received training on the prevention and handling of violence at work.

     As for the working arrangement, at present each community work team comprises, on average, three to four CWOs to lead about 30 able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipients.  Such arrangement facilitates mutual support at work.  To enhance communication among CWOs, SWD holds a weekly meeting with CWOs to provide them with the latest work-related information, as well as enable them to share their experience and understand the latest guidelines on work safety.

(c) Since SWD keeps reviewing and improving the measures that help able-bodied CSSA recipients to move from welfare to self-reliance, and as there is no grade in the civil service comparable to the posts of CWOs, it is therefore more appropriate to employ non-civil service contract staff to take up the work for the time being.

Ends/Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:06


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