Ombudsman probes Government's follow-up mechanism regarding psychological health assessment of schoolchildren (with photo)

The following is issued on behalf of the Office of The Ombudsman:

     The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, today (April 3) declared a direct investigation to examine whether the follow-up mechanism of the Department of Health (DH) and the Education Bureau (EDB) for the psychological health assessment of schoolchildren is adequate and effective.

     In 1995, the DH launched the Student Health Service Programme. Its aim is to safeguard the physical and psychological health of schoolchildren. Over the years, more than 90 per cent of the local schoolchildren have enrolled in the Programme. Every school year, the DH will arrange for the enrolled schoolchildren to attend health assessment sessions (which include psychological health assessment) that match their different stages of development. If the psychological health assessment shows that certain schoolchildren would need follow-up services, their cases would be referred to the department's Special Assessment Centres or other specialist clinics/organisations. The EDB's role is to help the DH disseminate information about the Programme to the schools, while the schools mainly assist the DH in delivering and collecting the application forms of the Programme.

     From media reports, the Office of The Ombudsman has noticed that some parents indicated that even though their children had been assessed to have psychological health problems, there would not be any follow-up action or referral by the departments concerned. Some parents have also pointed out that there is a lack of transparency in the release of information regarding the Programme, such that parents are not aware of their children's assessment results or any subsequent follow-up actions.

     The Office's preliminary inquiry shows that if students do not attend the assessment sessions, their cases would not be followed up. And if students who attend the assessment sessions are not accompanied by their parents, the DH would merely rely on the students themselves to relay the assessment results to their parents, and would cease following up the case once a referral has been made. The Office considers that there may be impropriety on the part of the two departments in carrying out the Programme and in following up cases of students with psychological health problems, which may jeopardise the effectiveness of the Programme.

     Ms Lau said, "Psychological health is very crucial in the personal development and growth of schoolchildren. The Student Health Service Programme can play a key role in the prevention and early discovery of any psychological health problems among schoolchildren. If the DH and the EDB fail to carry out the Programme effectively and do not identify students who need help at an early stage, those students would probably miss their opportunity for timely assistance. We have initiated this direct investigation to probe whether the follow-up mechanism of the DH and the EDB regarding the psychological health assessment of schoolchildren is effective, in order to ensure that adequate support is provided to the schoolchildren and their parents."

     The ambit of this direct investigation covers:

(1) whether the DH's mechanism to follow up cases of students having been assessed under the Programme to have psychological health problems is effective;

(2) whether the measures adopted by the EDB and the DH in releasing information of the Programme to schools and parents and in co-ordinating the follow-up action for children with psychological health problems are adequate; and

(3) any areas for improvement and enhancement.

     The Ombudsman now invites members of the public to send their views in writing to the Office of The Ombudsman by May 10, 2017:

Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre
             168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149

Ends/Monday, April 3, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:45