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LCQ2: Child abuse

     Following is a question by the Hon Ronny Tong Ka-wah and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 26):


     Recent press reports and complaints from the relevant organisations indicate that the situation of children in Hong Kong being abused by their relatives or others is deteriorating. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of child abuse cases last year; detailed information such as the age, family background, family income and parents' education level, etc of the abused children involved in the child abuse cases in the past five years;

(b) of the number of prosecutions brought against and convictions of the abusers in the child abuse cases in the past five years; whether the authorities have any established policy and measures to assist in the rehabilitation of the abused children; if so, of the specific policies and measures; whether the authorities have any indicator to assess if such policies and measures are really effective; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) apart from implementing a pilot project to review child fatality, whether the Government had conducted other studies in the past five years to ascertain the factors behind children being abused in recent years; if so, of the long-term policy the Government has put in place, which focuses on such factors, to make improvements in order to prevent deterioration of the situation of child abuse; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Hong Kong Police Force (the Police) collect statistics on child abuse cases respectively. The  number of newly reported child abuse cases during January to September 2010 collected by SWD was 745 whereas the number of child abuse crime cases received by the Police in 2010 was 1,508. The difference in statistics is due to the different statistical definitions and basis adopted by the two departments.

     Background information on child abuse cases collected by SWD in the past five years is at Annex 1. The Administration has no information on the income level of the families of the abused children.

(b) Between 2006 and 2009 and from January to September 2010, the number of prosecution and convicted cases charged under sections 26 and 27 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance, which target specifically at ill-treating, neglect and abandoning of children, are set out at Annex 2. In addition, child abuse cases can also be prosecuted as other criminal offences.

     The Government attaches great importance to child protection. Besides making every effort to prevent child abuse, relevant government departments (including SWD and the Police) also take proactive action to follow up on reported child abuse cases and provide professional and appropriate services to the abused children, so as to facilitate their rehabilitation and early return to normal lives.

     The Family and Child Protective Services Units (FCPSUs) of SWD provide abused children and their families with outreaching and crisis intervention services to help lessen the trauma resulting from the abuse incidents. Social workers will conduct a comprehensive assessment on the emotional, psychological and family conditions of the abused children and arrange individual or group counselling, clinical psychological service and support services for the concerned children and their families as soon as possible. Legal protection will also be provided for the children where necessary.

     In addition, the 61 Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) across the territory provide needy families with support services, including assisting children and adolescents to resolve their family and developmental problems. The 137 Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres across the territory also provide them with a series of preventive, support and remedial services to facilitate their healthy development and to help them cope with any physical, psychological, social and family problems.

     SWD has launched the "Victim Support Programme for Victims of Family Violence" (VSP) since June 2010 to provide comprehensive support services to victims, including victims of child abuse cases, to facilitate their early return to normal lives. Services provided include accompanying witnesses and victims (covering child witnesses and abused children) throughout the judicial process as well as providing information on community support services available, etc. The non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating the programme has set up service delivery points in different districts across the territory to enable easy access by victims.

     Causes of child abuse are often complicated and involved various personal and family problems. It is not possible to assess the effectiveness of the relevant measures and services with a single set of standardised indicators. This notwithstanding, in following up every individual case, the social workers and professionals concerned will have the child's interest as their prime consideration, and conduct continuous risk assessment with a view to developing an appropriate welfare plan and ensuring that the abused child receives the necessary care and support. In reviewing the effectiveness of the measures and services, the Administration will take into account a comprehensive range of factors, including statistics of child abuse cases.

(c) In order to have a better understanding of the causes of domestic violence and to identify effective preventive and intervention strategies, SWD commissioned the University of Hong Kong in 2003 to conduct a study on child abuse and spouse battering. The study was completed in 2005. According to its findings, the risk factors related to child abuse include violence between parents, relatively low education level of parents, less well-off economic conditions of families, poor inter-personal relationship and social network, etc.

     In the light of the risk factors above and taking other relevant information into account, the Administration provides a continuum of preventive, supportive and specialised services with a view to preventing domestic violence and child abuse and tackling these problems promptly when they arise.

Preventive Measures

     Publicity and public education are very important in preventing domestic violence and forestalling its deterioration. To enhance public awareness on child protection and family education, SWD has set up a working group since 2002 to formulate comprehensive publicity strategies on domestic violence (including child abuse) to promote the message of "Strengthening Families and Combating Violence" through different media.

Support Services

     Over the past few years, the Administration has put in new resources to enhance the support services for victims of domestic violence. These include the Batterer Intervention Programme, which aims at changing the abusers' behaviour and attitude and reducing their repeated violence acts including child abuse; enhancing support services provided by the refuge and crisis centres such that the children in need may stay with their abused families in the respective centres; and implementing VSP, etc.

     On the other hand, SWD has launched the Family Support Programmes in IFSCs and Integrated Services Centres, FCPSUs and Psychiatric Medical Social Services Units.  Through telephone contacts, home visits and other outreaching services, SWD proactively reaches out to vulnerable families that are unmotivated to seek help, and encourages children and adolescents in families at risk of domestic violence to receive appropriate support services to prevent the problems from deteriorating.

     In addition, the Government has implemented the Comprehensive Child Development Service (CCDS) for young children aged under five in eight districts since 2006. Through multi-sectoral collaboration among the Department of Health, Hospital Authority (HA), Education Bureau (EDB), SWD and NGOs, CCDS works on early identification of pre-school children with health, developmental, behavioural and family problems. Children in need would be referred to the appropriate service units for assistance. As announced by the Chief Executive in his 2010 Policy Address, the service will be extended to 18 districts across the territory.

Specialised Service

     Since 2004, the manpower of FCPSUs has been significantly increased and the number of FCPSUs has been increased from five to 11 units.  An additional Clinical Psychology Unit was also created with additional resources from SWD in recent years.

     The Administration recognises that collaboration among different sectors and professionals is the key to effective prevention and tackling of child abuse.  As such, SWD has been proactively coordinating the efforts of different departments, professionals and NGOs. There are well-established mechanisms to ensure effective collaboration. At the central level, dedicated multi-disciplinary committees including the Committee on Child Abuse and the Working Group on Combating Violence chaired by the Director of Social Welfare and comprise representatives from the Police, EDB, HA and NGOs have been set up to advise on the strategies and handling of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual violence. At the district level, 11 District Coordinating Committees on Family and Child Welfare and 11 District Liaison Groups on Family Violence have been established by SWD to facilitate cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary collaboration with a view to handling domestic violence (including child abuse cases) more effectively.

Ends/Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:48


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