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LCQ13: Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project

     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 (November 17):


     According to the Policy Initiatives of the Labour and Welfare Bureau for 2010-2011 presented by the Government to the Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services, the Government has decided to extend the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (the Project) to all the 18 districts.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities will review the service charges of the Project and the amount of allowance for home-based child carers;

(b) whether the amount of allowance for home-based child carers will be adjusted to the level of or above the minimum wage after the initial statutory minimum wage rate under the Minimum Wage Ordinance (Cap. 608) has been implemented;

(c) of the respective numbers of applicants on the waiting lists for the home-based child care service and centre-based care group service provided by each of the operating organisations of the Project; and

(d) whether the authorities have plans to relax the existing age limits of the service targets of the centre-based groups from children aged 3 to under 6 to include all children aged under 12; and those of home-based child care service from children aged under 6 to include children aged under 12?



     It is the responsibility of parents to take care of their young children.  To support parents who are unable to take care of their children temporarily because of work or other reasons, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has all along been providing subvention to non-governmental organisations to run a variety of child care services.  The Department also strives to increase the flexibility of such services.

     In 2008 October, SWD launched the three-year Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP) on a pilot basis.  The NSCCP aims to provide needy families with more flexible child care service in addition to regular services and to foster, at the same time, mutual help and care in the community.  The NSCCP services include home-based care service for children aged under six and centre-based care group for children aged between three and under six.  Service operators recruit and train carers in the neighbourhood to take care of children at the carers' homes or in the service centres run by the operators.

     The pilot stage of the NSCCP will be completed by the end of March 2011.  We consider that the objectives of the NSCCP have been achieved and have thus decided to regularise it and extend its service coverage from 11 districts at present to all 18 districts so as to benefit more needy families.  

     My reply to the four parts of the Hon Cheung Kwok-che's question is set out below:

(a) The service charges and incentive payments for home-based child carers of the NSCCP are determined by service operators.  That said, when submitting their service proposals to SWD, service operators are required, in accordance with their circumstances and those of their respective districts, to provide information about the overall financial arrangements for their projects, including the proposed service charges and incentive payments for home-based child carers.  In assessing the service proposals submitted by service operators, SWD will give full consideration as to whether the level of service charges and incentive payments are reasonable.  Families with financial difficulties will be granted fee waiving or reduction, subject to their passing the social need and means tests.

(b) The NSCCP is not an employment project.  Its objective is to provide needy families with more flexible child care service and to foster community participation and mutual help in the neighbourhood.  Remuneration should not be the primary consideration.  At present, home-based child carers under the NSCCP are providing services as volunteers in the spirit of care for others.  They do not have employment relationship with the service operators.

(c) Since the implementation of the NSCCP, SWD has not received any report on needy children having to wait for the service or not given the service because of insufficient service places.  The existing utilisation indicates that the NSCCP can largely address the service demands in the districts.

(d) To match service needs, the child care services subsidised by SWD have various service targets.  While the service targets of the NSCCP are young children under six, service operators will provide temporary services for children aged six or above in exceptional circumstances (e.g. when there is an urgent need for child care services because of sudden incidents) on a discretionary basis to ensure that the children concerned could be taken care of properly.

     The service needs of children aged six or above are quite different.  We believe that the After School Care Programme (ASCP) targeting children aged six to 12, instead of the NSCCP, can better meet their needs.  Services provided under the ASCP include meal service, parental guidance and education, skills learning and social activities, etc.  SWD provides fee waiving or reduction to needy low-income families.

     The centre-based care group under the NSCCP provides care services through group activities which are for children aged between three and under six.  We consider that home-based personal care should be more suitable for children aged below three and the home-based child care service of the NSCCP can address their service needs.

Ends/Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:13


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