LCQ14: Support services for youth

     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 (June 13):


     I have contacted a total of 25 youth service units which are located in 16 different districts a couple of weeks ago, including those providing integrated children and youth services, outreaching social work services for the youth and overnight youth outreaching services, etc.  Quite a number of social workers have relayed to me that the problem of truancy and dropping out from schools among youngsters aged 15 or below has become more and more serious, and due to poor relationship with their parents, they always wander around in the communities, giving rise to the problem of youth gangs, and very often, they refuse to go home at night, which also poses threats to their personal safety.  In view of the aforesaid risks faced by youngsters who run away from home, fellow workers in the sector request the Government to improve and enhance the provision of ancillary services and facilities.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the Government will allocate additional resources to set up "emergency hostels for the youth" and streamline the application procedures for admission by not involving allocation by the central referral system, to enable those youth at risk who are reluctant to go home because of poor relationship with their families to take shelter temporarily, and to enable social workers to assist them in tackling problems through intervention, thereby reducing their chances of being exposed to dangers; if it will not, of the reasons for that; how the Government will improve the ancillary services, so as to provide the needy youth with an appropriate shelter to cope with crises; if it will, whether emergency hostel for the youth can be set up one each on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and the New Territories; if not, of the reasons for that;

(b) regarding the problems of inadequate places of residential homes for the youth and schools for social development, etc, how the Government will make specific planning in the long run to expand such services, so as to shorten the waiting time for the needy youth and provide them with appropriate services and care expeditiously; and

(c) focusing on the problem of those youth at risk with low educational attainment being very difficult to secure jobs after the implementation of statutory minimum wage, how the Government will extend ancillary services which suit the learning and working needs of youth at risk, so as to offer them more job opportunities and assist them in achieving self-reliance and upgrading their qualifications?



     My reply to the Hon Cheung Kwok-che's question is as follows:

(a) At present, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides subvention for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to operate a Crisis Residential Centre (CRC) with 30 short-term residential places on Hong Kong Island.  SWD also provides subvention for another NGO to provide a Young Night Drifters Service (YNDS) in Kowloon, including eight short-term residential places for boys.  The above services provide youths in need with crisis intervention, counselling as well as temporary shelter and residential services.  The emergency placement for residential service has all along been arranged through timely referrals by social workers/the police or through direct request by the young persons to the operating NGOs, instead of being arranged and allocated through a central co-ordinating referral mechanism.  For those cases referred by social workers, the social workers will continue to follow up with the young persons on their long-term welfare needs upon their leaving CRC or the YNDS centre.  For those who apply for accommodation in CRC on their own, the social workers of CRC will assess their needs and refer them to receive necessary services accordingly.  On the basis of existing service utilisation, we consider that CRC and the YNDS centre can provide sufficient residential places to meet service demand.

     To strengthen support for youths at risk, 18 designated Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres subvented by SWD have, since 2001, been providing overnight outreaching service for young night drifters from 10pm to 6am the next day.  These 18 overnight outreaching teams go to popular spots in the street where young people usually gather at late night and provide on-the-spot crisis intervention as necessary.  For runaway youths who have poor relationships with their families, social workers will discuss their situations with them and/or their family members and make appropriate arrangements.  As each of the overnight outreaching teams has been provided with a vehicle, social workers will, according to actual circumstances, escort and refer the youths in need to CRC or the YNDS centre for admission to temporary accommodation.  To better tackle the growing problem of young night drifters and juvenile gangs, SWD will allocate additional resources and commission NGOs to employ 30 extra outreaching social workers and set up three additional youth outreaching teams, one each in Tseung Kwan O, Ma On Shan and Tung Chung in the latter half of 2012-13.  The new teams will actively reach out to more youths at risk, counsel them and refer them to mainstream services.

(b) The Education Bureau (EDB) and SWD have all along been working together to keep the supply and demand for Schools for Social Development (SSDs) and their residential service under regular review.  During the past 10 years, the school places and residential places of SSDs have increased from 945 and 589 in the 2001/02 school year to 1 200 and 657 in the 2011/12 school year respectively.  EDB and SWD are also planning to build a new SSD with residential service for girls as well as reprovisioning and expanding an SSD with residential service for boys.  EDB and SWD will take forward these projects to further meet the service demand.

     To improve the waiting time for admission to SSDs and their residential service, EDB and SWD review the referral procedures from time to time.  In September 2010, EDB and SWD requested SSDs to strictly comply with the requirement of admitting students within the prescribed period so as to enhance the efficiency of the referral procedures and shorten the waiting time of the students.  Subsequent to the implementation of this measure, the waiting list situation improved significantly.  Statistics show that the number of students waiting for school-cum-residential placement on March 31, 2012 dropped by 70% and 40% when compared with the figures in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

     In parallel with the residential services provided by SSDs, SWD also subvents six NGOs to provide a total of 305 residential places in boys' and girls' homes/hostels, with a view to offering residential placement for young persons with emotional, behavioural and family problems.  In 2012-13, SWD has acquired additional resources for the provision of 30 additional residential places in boys' and girls' homes/hostels so as to shorten the waiting time of needy youths and enable them to receive suitable services and care as soon as possible.

(c) The Government provides young people with a wide range of training opportunities so that they may choose to enrol in suitable courses based on their interests, abilities and career aspirations, while meeting the requirements of individual industries.  Among others, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) offers the Youth Training Programme (YTP) specifically to the non-engaged youth aged between 15 and 20 who lack formal qualifications.  YTP aims to prepare the young people to join the job market.  Related organisations also refer learners in need to ERB's training bodies for YTP.  In 2012-13, ERB plans to continue to provide 1 500 training places under YTP.  Besides YTP, the young people who meet the entry requirements may also choose to enrol in the wide array of training courses on vocational skills offered by ERB.  ERB endeavours to develop courses that lead to professional qualifications or recognition under the Qualifications Framework, and provides follow-up placement support services for the graduates of its placement-tied training courses.  The learners of YTP can benefit from these services.  

     Besides, the Labour Department administers the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme and Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme (YPTP&YWETS), a "through-train" programme providing a full range of pre-employment and on-the-job training to young school leavers aged 15 to 24 with educational attainment at sub-degree or below level.  To cater for the special needs of youths at risk, a special training project is organised under YPTP&YWETS in collaboration with NGOs operating youth outreaching services.  Under the project, trainees are provided with a package of tailor-made pre-employment training courses that are flexible in course duration, class size and course schedule.  Moreover, social workers of the NGOs provide personalised career counselling and support services, and assist trainees in applying for suitable vacancies for receiving on-the-job training for a period of six to 12 months, with a view to enhancing their employability.  On the other hand, to encourage employers to employ youths with limited work experience, a monthly training subsidy of $2,000 is provided under YPTP&YWETS to those who engage trainees for on-the-job training.

Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Issued at HKT 11:43