LCQ15: Child care services
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     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Wai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):

Question:

     Regarding child care assistance and child care services, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the respective numbers of children aged between 0 and 3 as well as 4 and 6 in various districts in the past three years, broken down by the 18 District Council districts (18 districts) in Hong Kong;

(b) of the respective service quotas of child care centres, kindergarten-cum-child care centres, residential child care centres, special child care centres, mutual help child care centres and Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP) in various districts in the past three years, broken down by the 18 districts in Hong Kong;

(c) of the respective current demands for the services of child care centres, kindergarten-cum-child care centres, residential child care centres, special child care centres, mutual help child care centres and NSCCP, broken down by the 18 districts in Hong Kong; the respective average waiting time for the services of the various types of centres;

(d) of the respective service quotas of child care centres, kindergarten-cum-child care centres, residential child care centres, special child care centres, mutual help child care centres and NSCCP provided by the authorities in 2012-2013, broken down by the 18 districts in Hong Kong; the increase/decrease in these service quotas;

(e) whether the authorities have conducted a review of the various types of child care assistance and child care services; if they have, when the review was conducted and what the outcome is; if not, of the reasons for that;

(f) of the respective general service hours of child care centres, kindergarten-cum-child care centres, residential child care centres, special child care centres, mutual help child care centres and NSCCP at present; given that quite a number of parents have to work for increasingly long hours, whether the authorities will consider extending the service hours of such centres; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(g) in respect of NSCCP, of the number of persons who had served as home-based child carers and the number of home-based child carers the authorities had planned to recruit in the past three years, broken down by the 18 districts in Hong Kong?

Reply:

President,

     It is the fundamental 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 Administration has all along provided subvention to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to run a variety of day child care services, and endeavours to enhance the flexibility of such services. Families in financial difficulty may apply for different service subsidies or fee waiver.

     On the other hand, residential child care centres (RCCCs) are set up to support children under six years old who cannot receive proper care from their families because of various reasons. They are required to undergo a comprehensive assessment on their welfare needs conducted by social workers before referral can be made for them to receive free residential care services. For children from birth to six years old with disabilities, the Government provides a series of pre-school rehabilitation services (Note 1) to them. Through these early intervention services, the Government strives to enhance their physical, psychological and social developments, thus improving their opportunities for joining ordinary schools and participating in daily life activities, as well as to help their families meet their special needs.

     My reply to the seven parts of the Hon Ip Wai-ming's question is as follows:

(a) The respective numbers of children "aged below 3" as well as "aged above 3 and below 6" in the past three years in Hong Kong broken down by the 18 District Council districts (18 districts) are tabulated at Annex 1.

(b) and (d) The number of places for RCCCs, a non-district-based service, remained at 207 from 2009-10 to 2011-12. To meet the service demand and further support needy families, the Administration will further enhance residential care services for children by providing an additional 130 places, including places for RCCCs, in phases from 2012-13 onwards.

     Upon the regularisation and extension of the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP) to all 18 districts in October 2011, a minimum of 40 service places (including 26 home-based child care places and 14 centre-based care group places) are provided in each of the 18 districts. In order to meet the community's demand for child care services, service operators would increase the number of home-based child care places on a need basis and develop child carers' network.

     The numbers of places in aided standalone child care centres (standalone CCCs), kindergarten-cum-child care centres (KG-cum-CCCs), special child care centres (SCCCs)@and  mutual help child care centres (MHCCCs) from 2009-10 to 2012-13 in each of the Social Welfare Department's (SWD's) 11 administrative districts are tabulated at Annex 2.

(c) Day child care services in various districts including standalone CCCs, KG-cum-CCCs, MHCCCs and NSCCP can meet the different needs of parents.

     RCCC is not a district-based service. As for residential creches and residential nurseries, their utilisation rates in the period from April to December 2011 were 92% and 98% respectively, while their respective average waiting time was less than a month and less than three months.

     Unlike other child care services in general, before a child receives pre-school rehabilitation services, an assessment will be conducted by a doctor or a psychologist so as to ascertain the abilities and service needs of the child. A child in need will then be referred by social workers from SWD, Hospital Authority or non-governmental organisations to SWD's Central Referral System for Rehabilitation Services to waitlist for services. As such, SWD does not have statistics on the utilisation rates of SCCCs by district. As at March 2012, the number of children waitlisted for SCCC places was 1 319. In 2010-11, the average waiting time was about 15 months.

     The utilisation rates of aided standalone CCCs, KG-cum-CCCs, MHCCCs and NSCCP in each of the SWD's 11 administrative districts from April to December 2011 are tabulated at Annex 3.

(e) According to the above information, there is in general a continuous need for different kinds of child care services, and the service demand and supply remain at a stable level.

     SWD has been closely monitoring the service demand and operation of various day child care services. Efforts have been made to understand the local need for such services through District Social Welfare Offices, in order to ensure that these services can meet the demand in different districts. We note the demand of stakeholders for flexible child care service, and thus more flexible services have been provided in recent years to meet different needs of parents, including the pilot implementation of NSCCP since 2008-09. After reviewing the need for various day child care services, SWD regularised and extended NSCCP to all 18 districts in October 2011.

     SWD has all along been closely monitoring the demand for residential child care services through a central referral system (CRS). The CRS captures the number of children referred by social workers for residential care service. To meet the service demand and reduce waiting time, SWD provided in 2008-09 and 2009-10 an additional 100 residential child care places.  We have also streamlined the referral, processing and admission procedures and improved the case management mechanism.  As mentioned above, the Administration will provide an additional 130 places of residential care service for children (including RCCCs) in phase starting from 2012-13.

     Furthermore, the objective of pre-school rehabilitation services is to enable children with special needs to receive appropriate training as early as possible. Therefore, in the past five years, SWD has allocated funding to provide about 1 393 additional places (including SCCC places), representing an increase of nearly 30%. A total of 6 230 pre-school rehabilitation service places are available at present, 1 757 of which are SCCC places. An additional 126 SCCC places are expected to come on stream in 2012-13. Separately, the Community Care Fund has started to provide training subsidy for children who are on the waiting list of subvented pre-school rehabilitation services since January 2012, with a view to providing training subsidy for not more than 12 months for pre-school children from low-income families and in need of rehabilitation services, so as to enable them to receive necessary services as soon as possible, thereby facilitating their learning and development.

(f) The Administration has strived to enhance the flexibility of day child care services. To effectively support parents who cannot take care of their children because of long working hours or other reasons, some CCCs will extend their service hours till 8 pm from Monday to Saturday as needed. The operating hours of NSCCP, covering evenings, weekends and holidays, are more flexible than those of regular services.

     The service hours of aided standalone CCCs, KG-cum-CCCs, RCCCs, SCCCs, MHCCCs and NSCCP are tabulated at Annex 4.

(g) The pilot NSCCP was implemented in the 11 administrative districts of SWD in October 2008. Each service operator was required to provide at least 26 home-based child care places and 14 centre-based care group places. In other words, at least 286 home-based child care places and 154 centre-based care group places would be provided over the territory. Upon the regularisation and extension of NSCCP to all 18 districts in October 2011, at least 468 home-based child care places and 252 centre-based care group places are available over the territory at present. The service operators have the flexibility to provide additional home-based child care places on top of the minimum requirement set by SWD to meet the actual service demand.

Note 1: Pre-school rehabilitation services subvented by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) include early education and training centres, special child care centres and integrated programmes in kindergarten-cum-child care centres.

Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:27

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