LCQ15: After-school child care services

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (June 27):


     According to the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap. 212), if any person over the age of 16 years who has the custody, charge or care of any child or young person under that age wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or exposes such child or young person in a manner likely to cause such child or young person unnecessary suffering or injury to his health, such person shall be guilty of an offence. However, the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project only provides care services for children aged under six, and the quota for after school child care service (child care service) provided by some schools for children aged between six and 12 is limited. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) during school holidays and when parents are unable to take care of their young children aged between six and 12 temporarily due to various reasons, of the services provided or subsidised by the Government to provide support to the grassroots parents concerned, together with a list of the short-term care services available at present for children aged between six and 12, the government departments/organisations responsible, as well as the quotas and service hours of such services in various districts;

(b) whether the authorities have assessed the demand for child care services for primary school students in various districts; if they have, of the assessment results; if not, how the authorities plan the service quotas according to the demands in respective districts; and

(c) whether the authorities have reviewed if the service hours and locations of child care services provided in various districts at present can cater for the working hours of most parents; given that some women's groups have proposed that the Government should allocate funds to subsidise schools to cooperate with social service organisations in the provision of child care services at school so as to support grassroots families, whether the authorities will consider the proposal; if they will, of the timetable for implementation; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Hon Cheung Man-kwong's questions is as follows:

(a) The Government is mindful of families' need for child care services.  For children aged between six and 12, if parents are unable to take care of them temporarily because of work or other reasons, they may consider using the services of the After School Care Programme (ASCP).  ASCP is operated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on a fee-charging basis, offering half-day support services for children aged between six and 12.  Services provided include skill learning, social activities and meal service, etc.

     At present, a total of 140 ASCP centres operated by NGOs offer about 5 500 service places in all 18 districts across the territory.  In general, ASCP centres provide services in various sessions from Monday to Friday till 7 or 8 pm.  Individual centres may also consider extending the service hours until late evening and providing services on Saturday in response to the actual demand in individual districts.

     Furthermore, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides assistance for low-income families to make use of ASCP services.  Under the "Fee Waiving Subsidy Scheme for ASCP" (FWSS) implemented by SWD, needy and eligible families may apply to the NGOs operating ASCP for fee waiving.

(b)&(c) As mentioned above, NGOs provide services in various sessions, of which the evening session operates till 7 or 8 pm.  Individual centres may also extend the service hours until late evening according to the actual demand in individual districts to accommodate the working hours of parents.

     As at March 2012, the overall quarterly utilisation rate of the 5 500 ASCP places located across the territory in all 18 districts was about 85%; FWSS also has unused quota.

     According to the present situation, ASCP and FWSS can both address the service demand.  To ensure efficient use of resources, SWD will conduct regular review on the demand for fee-waiving subsidies in various districts and will also liaise with NGOs concerned to increase their ASCP places to cope with additional demand as and when required.

     Furthermore, the Education Bureau (EDB) implements the "School-based After-school Learning and Support Programmes" (the Programme) to support the whole-person and all-round development of the needy students.  Schools and NGOs may apply for funding under the Programme to organise diversified after-school activities for needy students with a view to improving their learning effectiveness, broadening their learning experiences outside the classroom as well as raising their understanding of the community and sense of belonging.  The annual provision of the Programme has been increased from $75 million to $208 million in the 2011/12 school year, benefiting about 228 000 eligible students.  In tandem, EDB encourages schools to open up their premises for community services and activities to better support their students.

     In response to community demand for enhancing after-school child care services to assist working parents, the Community Care Fund has allocated $40 million in the 2012/13 school year to implement a one-year "After-school Care Pilot Scheme" (the Scheme).  The Scheme aims to co-ordinate and integrate existing after-school learning and support activities organised by schools and NGOs for needy students.  New elements will be injected into the existing programmes so that students can make better use of their time after school and before they return home for dinner to participate in more meaningful activities and learning, thereby alleviating the pressure of working parents at the same time.  The Administration will review the effectiveness of the Scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Issued at HKT 11:20