LCQ19: Sexual assault and harassment cases in subvented homes

     Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Stephen Sui, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):


     Recently, I have received a request for assistance from a member of the public alleging that her daughter had been sexually assaulted in a small group home. Moreover, it is learnt that in recent years, a number of sexual assault cases have occurred in residential care homes for persons with disabilities.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of complaints received by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) in each of the past five years about persons with disabilities, the elderly, youth and children being sexually assaulted or harassed in subvented homes, broken down by the relationship between the suspected offender and the victim; among such suspected offenders, the number and percentage of those who claimed that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed in the past;

(2) of the approach currently adopted by SWD for handling the complaints mentioned in (1); whether SWD has reviewed the effectiveness of such approach; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether SWD has formulated guidelines on the handling of such complaints for reference by frontline staff; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether SWD has provided support for the victims of those complaints mentioned in (1); if so, of the details; among such victims, of the number and percentage of them who were not provided with any support in the past five years; and

(4) regarding those subvented homes with confirmed cases of residents being sexually assaulted or harassed, whether SWD will penalise the operators concerned and take follow-up actions; if so, of the details?



     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Andrew Wan is as follows:

(1) and (3) The numbers of complaints or incident reports received by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) during the period from 2012-13 to 2016-17 (up to March 28, 2017) about service users being sexually assaulted or harassed in subvented homes/subvented residential child care service (Note) units are set out at Annex.

     In those cases, SWD requested the agencies concerned or the responsible social workers to provide support to the victims/ suspected victims through multi-disciplinary collaboration, including formulating suitable welfare plans for them as well as rendering counselling and emotional support having regard to their needs and those of their family members. Besides, when handling the case involving children as referred to at Annex, SWD adopted a case manager approach in the intervention process whereby a child victim would only be required to interact with the case manager most of the time. This could reduce the stress felt on the part of the victim and the victim would not need to be subjected to the trauma of repeating the account of the unpleasant experience.

     SWD does not have statistics on whether the offenders/suspected offenders claimed that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed in the past.

(2) and (4) When SWD is aware of or receives a complaint about a resident of a subvented home or subvented residential child care service unit suspected of being sexually assaulted or harassed by the staff or another resident of the same home or service unit, SWD will, in accordance with the relevant ordinances and/or administrative guidelines, arrange for its staff to visit the home/service unit concerned to conduct investigation, and request the agency concerned to submit a report to SWD promptly. SWD will also request the agency concerned or the responsible social worker to provide support to the suspected victim and his/her family members through multi-disciplinary collaboration and to follow up on their welfare needs. Where any suspected criminal offence is involved, SWD will request the agency to refer the case to the police in parallel.

     If there is a complaint against a service subvented under the Lump Sum Grant (LSG) for not having complied with the relevant LSG funding requirements, the agency being complained about will be asked to handle the complaint in accordance with its established policy and procedures, and to reply to the complainant direct. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the agency's reply, and if the complaint falls within the remit of the LSG Independent Complaints Handling Committee (ICHC), the case will be examined by ICHC which, where necessary, will make recommendations to SWD on the follow-up actions.

     If the above investigation conducted under ordinances, administrative guidelines and/or the LSG complaint handling mechanism substantiates that a subvented home/service unit fails to comply with SWD's requirements in operating its service, SWD will issue a written warning and/or give directions requesting the home/service unit concerned to implement improvement measures. SWD will continue to monitor the operation of the home/service unit and its implementation of the improvement measures. Where non-compliance persists, SWD may withhold or terminate its subvention, or take further actions under the relevant ordinances having regard to the actual non-compliance.

     SWD will keep in view the effectiveness of the above mechanism from time to time to ensure that service users and their family members can receive timely support and that the quality of subvented services will be safeguarded.

Note: Residential child care services refer to the residential care services provided to children and young persons aged under 21, including foster care services, small group homes and other residential homes.

Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:55