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LCQ11: Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project and After School Care Programme

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     At present, the target beneficiaries of the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP) and the After School Care Programme (ASCP) under the Social Welfare Department (SWD) are infants under the age of 6 and children aged between 6 and 12 respectively.  Some concern groups for child care services have pointed out to me that the existing numbers of places for various child care services are insufficient.  Also, the operating hours of ASCP generally do not cover weekends, school holidays and general holidays, and thus cannot cater for the needs of grass-roots double-income parents who still need to work during such periods.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the criteria based on which the authorities have determined the numbers of places for various child care services; whether they will consider increasing the numbers of places for such services; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of a breakdown by District Council district of the respective numbers of subsidised places for NSCCP and ASCP, children receiving such services and applications on the waiting lists, as well as the respective utilisation rates for such services at present;

(c) of a breakdown of the budget items of SWD's $36.3 million approved provision for NSCCP in 2012-2013 and the actual expenditure of such items so far;

(d) of the respective numbers of accidents causing injuries to home-based child carers and children since NSCCP was launched in 2008; of the types of insurance policies taken out by the authorities for various service operators as well as the protection offered to the carers and the children; whether the authorities have provided the service operators with guidelines on how to react when accidents occur and follow up;

(e) whether the authorities have conducted any review of NSCCP since it was extended to all the 18 Districts across the territory in October 2011; if they have, whether they will publish the full contents and outcome of the review; if not, whether they will conduct such a review expeditiously; and

(f) whether the authorities will adjust the operating hours of ASCP so as to better cater for the needs of double-income parents with children aged between six and 12 (particularly parents from grass-roots families)?



     To support parents who are unable to take care of their children temporarily because of work or other reasons, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides subvention to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to run a variety of child care services, and has endeavoured to enhance the flexibility of such services. Families with financial difficulty may apply for different service subsidies or fee waiver.

     My reply to the six-part question raised by the Hon Emily Lau is as follows:

(a) In planning its child care services, SWD assesses the service needs of individual districts having regard to their local characteristics, such as the population of children, relevant socio-economic factors, availability and utilisation of existing child care services, etc.  District Social Welfare Offices of SWD also consult district organisations, District Councillors and local residents etc on the needs for child care services in the districts.  SWD will continue to closely monitor the demand and usage rates of these services, including requesting the service operators of various child services to submit reports periodically so as to monitor the utilisation of the services.

     As for the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP), SWD has only set the minimum number of places to be provided by the service operators.  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. Regarding the number of places offered by the After School Care Programme (ASCP), besides assessing the service needs based on the principles stated above, places for various districts may also be adjusted to meet seasonal demand.

(b) The number of service places and the utilisation of NSCCP and ASCP are set out in Annex 1 and Annex 2 respectively.  SWD has not received any report of needy children having to wait for NSCCP places because of insufficient service places. The utilisation rate of ASCP ranges from 66% to 96%.

(c) In October 2011, SWD regularised and extended NSCCP to all 18 districts.  In 2012-13, a provision of $36.3 million has been approved for NSCCP, of which $1.77 million is estimated to be allocated to each of the 18 districts, totalling $31.86 million. Of the $1.77 million allocated to each district, $920,000 is reserved as expenditure on subsidies for low-income families with social needs, while the remaining $850,000 can be flexibly used by service operators on payroll cost and payment items such as meals, activities and equipment so as to meet the needs of different districts.  Besides the $31.86 million provided to all districts, the remaining $4.44 million is reserved for SWD to provide additional funds, in accordance with the Service Specification, to service operators in the districts with higher service demand and utilisation.  As at June 2012, the service operators of 10 districts were provided with additional funds of about $1.38 million in total by SWD in accordance with the service specification for their higher service utilisation rate.

(d) Like other services funded by SWD, the insurance cost has already been covered in the funding provided to NSCCP service operators.  The operators can flexibly deploy the funds to take out insurance that they deem fit and adequate for their service users and volunteers (including home-based child carers) having regard to the overall service design, operational arrangements as well as specific nature of their institutions.

     At present, all NSCCP service operators have carried out the service agreements as signed with SWD by taking out Group Personal Accident Insurance and Public Liability Insurance policies for the volunteers (including home-based child carers) and service users so as to cover any injuries sustained in accidents or other incidents while they are providing or receiving service.  In addition, NSCCP service operators have contingency plans to make timely and appropriate arrangements right after the accidents.

     SWD has not received any report of accidents causing injuries to volunteer home-based child carers or children since the launch of NSCCP.

(e) SWD launched a three-year pilot NSCCP in October 2008 and conducted a review on the project in early 2011.  The review findings showed that the service had benefited low-income or underprivileged families with child care needs, and the service users in general were satisfied with the NSCCP service.  The stakeholders also agreed that NSCCP could provide flexible child care service while promoting the spirit of neighbourhood support and volunteer service.  Thus, NSCCP was a desirable model worth further pursuing.

     In light of the review, SWD regularised and extended NSCCP to all 18 districts in October 2011.  SWD will continue to monitor the operation of NSCCP through performance statistics and reports submitted by service operators on a monthly basis as well as pre-arranged or surprised site visits.  The service agreements that SWD signed with service operators will expire in March 2015.  By then, SWD will review the service performance and work done by individual service operators, and collect views from stakeholders and relevant social organisations.

(f) At present, there are a total of 142 ASCP centres operated by NGOs offering about 5 400 to 5 500 service places for children aged 6 to 12.  In general, ASCP centres provide services in various sessions from Monday to Friday till 7 or 8pm.  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 to accommodate the working hours of parents.

     In response to community demand for enhancing after-school child care services to assist working parents, the Community Care Fund has allocated $28 million in the 2012-13 school year for the Education Bureau to implement a one-year "After-school Care Pilot Scheme" (the Scheme).  The Scheme will benefit more than 4 400 students.  The Scheme aims to co-ordinate and integrate existing after-school learning and support activities organised by participating schools and NGOs for needy students 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 in due course.

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:56


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