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LCQ8: Family welfare services

     Following is a question by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (March 30):


     In order to enable the early identification of families at risk, as well as to enhance support for families, the Government provides preventive services through the Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) and implements the Comprehensive Child Development Service in the Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) regarding families which were in grave need of assistance but had previously been reluctant to receive services, of the respective numbers of such families that IFSCs in Hong Kong had taken the initiative to contact in each of the past three years, and the number of those which had eventually accepted the relevant services;

(b) of the respective numbers of cases in which children or families at risk had been identified by MCHCs in each of the past three years, and among such cases, the number of those which had been referred to the Social Welfare Department for follow-up; and

(c) whether there is any plan to strengthen the work of identifying children or families at risk in MCHCs, including enhancing the training of staff and setting up medical social services units in MCHCs, etc; if so, of the details of the plan; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Administration has all along strived to provide a series of comprehensive preventive, supportive and remedial family welfare services for supporting families with welfare needs and promoting the well-being of their members.  To enable the early identification of families at risk so as to provide them with the appropriate supportive services in a timely manner for preventing their problems from deteriorating, the Administration has launched various new measures and services in recent years, including the Comprehensive Child Development Service (CCDS) implemented in phase since 2005 and the Family Support Programme (FSP) implemented since 2007.

     My reply to the three parts of the Hon Tam Yiu-chung's question is set out below –

(a) In order to build a community network for enhancing the connection with, and identification of, families and individuals who are in grave need of assistance but have been reluctant to receive services (including families and individuals affected by domestic violence, psychiatric problems and social isolation), the Social Welfare Department (SWD) has implemented the FSP since 2007 in Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs)/Integrated Services Centres (ISCs), Family and Child Protective Services Units and Psychiatric Medical Social Services Units.

     Under the FSP, relevant services units recruit and train volunteers to be "Family Support Personnel", including those who had personal experience in overcoming similar problems or crises.  Social workers responsible for the programme and Family Support Personnel pro-actively contact families in the community who are in grave need of assistance but have been reluctant to receive services through home visits, phone calls and other outreaching services.  They identify the needs of these families in a timely manner and refer them to the appropriate support services so as to prevent their problems from deteriorating.

     Through the FSP, the 61 IFSCs over the territory have pro-actively contacted over 12 100 and 9 600 needy families or individuals who had not previously received the relevant community and welfare services and referred them to the suitable service units for follow-up in 2008 and 2009 respectively.  From January to September 2010, the corresponding figure was over 6 000.  SWD does not maintain statistics on the number of families and individuals who were contacted by IFSCs but eventually did not receive the relevant community or welfare services, or those who had already received the relevant services when being contacted by IFSCs.

(b) To ensure that needy children are provided with timely support at the early stage of their development so as to lay a solid foundation for their growth and development, the Labour and Welfare Bureau, Hospital Authority (HA), Department of Health (DH), SWD and Education Bureau have collaborated to launch the CCDS in phase since 2005 for children aged below five and their families.  The service makes use of Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) under DH and other service units (eg specialist services operated by HA, IFSCs/ISCs operated/subvented by SWD and pre-primary institutions, etc) as platforms to identify at an early stage at-risk pregnant women, mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, families in need of social services and pre-primary children with health, developmental or behavioural problems, etc.  Children and families so identified are referred to the appropriate health and welfare service units for early intervention.

     The CCDS currently covers about half of the target population in Hong Kong.  To enhance the support for needy children and their families, the Administration will extend the CCDS to all 18 districts by phase from 2011-12.

     The MCHCs which implemented the CCDS successfully identified about 2 600, 2 000 and 2 500 mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression, and about 870, 330 and 480 families in need of social services in the three years from 2008-2010 respectively.  The medical professionals had, in accordance with their needs and wishes, referred them to the suitable health and welfare service units, such as the psychiatric and paediatric medical professionals from HA stationing at MCHCs, specialist services operated by HA or IFSCs/ISCs for follow-up.  MCHCs which implemented the CCDS referred about 480, 380 and 570 cases to IFSCs/ISCs in the three years from 2008-2010 respectively.

(c) DH has been providing systematic in-service training to the relevant frontline medical professionals so as to enhance their skills in identifying children and families at risk.  The department has also provided targeted training to doctors and nurses at the MCHCs which implement the CCDS. These training elements include skills in assessing postnatal emotional problems (eg, the skills to assess whether patients have suicidal tendency or risks of causing harms to babies, etc), identifying families with social service needs and encouraging needy persons to accept referrals to other services, etc, as well as the service needs of people from different cultural background and ethnic groups.

     To enhance the cross-sectoral collaboration with the social welfare sector, DH has been maintaining close contacts with SWD and the relevant social welfare units, including the organisation of service briefings on the CCDS for IFSC/ISC social workers, arranging for mutual visits, information sharing and, where necessary, discussion of the management solutions of individual cases between medical professionals and IFSC/ISC personnel, etc.

     Besides, IFSC/ISC social workers also place newsletters and information leaflets at MCHCs and set up promotional stalls to raise public awareness of the service.  Individual IFSCs/ISCs have also arranged for social workers to station at MCHCs to meet with the service targets, and assist in referring needy children and their families who are at risk to the suitable service units for follow-up action.

Ends/Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:23


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