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LCQ11: Child abuse cases
     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (January 17):


     Regarding cases of children (i.e. persons under the age of 18) being abused, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of newly reported child abuse cases in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by age group to which the abused children belonged, nature of abuse (i.e. (i) neglect, (ii) sexual abuse, (iii) psychological abuse and (iv) multiple abuse) and identity of the abuser (i.e. (a) parent, (b) sibling, (c) step-parent, (d) grandparent, (e) other relative, (f) family friend/friend, (g) caregiver, (h) teacher, (i) tutor/coach, (j) co-tenant/neighbour, (k) unrelated person and (l) unidentified person/others) to be set out in tables of the same format as the table in Annex 1;

(2) of the respective numbers of abusers in child abuse cases prosecuted and convicted in each of the past five years;

(3) whether there was an upward trend in the number of newly reported child abuse cases in the past five years; if so, of the details, and whether it has studied the causes;

(4) of the measures currently in place to prevent child abuse; whether it will review the effectiveness of such measures; if so, of the details and timetable; and

(5) of the details of the services currently provided by the Social Welfare Department to the abused children, abusers and their family members; the attendances of such services in each of the past three years, and the number of cases in which the abusers were found abusing children again within one year after receiving the services?



     The Government attaches great importance to the well-being of children and firmly believes that every child has a right to protection against harm and abuse. Having consulted relevant bureaux and departments, including the Social Welfare Department (SWD) and Hong Kong Police Force (the Police), my consolidated reply to the question is as follows:

(1) The SWD and the Police capture the statistics on child abuse cases separately. For the statistics regarding the newly reported child abuse cases captured by the SWD during the period of 2013 to September 2017, please refer to Annex 2. The SWD does not have the information on the statistics relating to the number of abused children by age and by relationship with the abusers.

     The number of child abuse crime cases received by the Police from 2013 to the first half of 2017 is at Annex 3. For child abuse cases, the Police only maintain statistics on "physical abuse against children" (including negligence) and "sexual abuse against children", while statistics on children who are psychologically abused are not available.

     When collecting the case figures, the SWD and the Police adopt their own statistical definitions and bases in accordance with their different operational needs and hence the statistics cannot be compared directly.

(2) According to information provided by the Police, cases of "physical abuse against children" and "sexual abuse against children" referred to in part (1) can be prosecuted as various criminal offences. Between 2013 and September 2017, the number of persons prosecuted and convicted under sections 26 and 27 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap 212), which target specifically ill-treating, neglect and abandoning of children, are set out at Annex 4. The Government does not collate the statistics of other criminal offences involving child abuse.

(3) According to the statistics provided by the SWD and the Police in Annexes 2 and 3, there is no indication reflecting an obvious trend of increase or decrease in the overall number of child abuse cases.

(4) The relevant Government bureaux and departments have launched various initiatives to prevent child abuse and are dedicated to providing services to abused children and their families. There are 65 Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) and two Integrated Services Centres (ISCs) across the territory operated by the SWD or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) providing a spectrum of preventive, supportive and remedial services to enhance parenting capacity and assist those parents who have care and child discipline problems.

     In addition, as some families in need are reluctant to actively seek help, the IFSCs and ISCs operated by the SWD or NGOs, Family and Child Protective Services Units (FCPSUs) and Psychiatric Medical Social Services Units of the SWD have jointly implemented the Family Support Programme to try to contact these families. Through telephone calls, home visits and other outreaching services, social workers contact the families with members at risk of domestic violence (including child abuse) or mental illness etc and those with problems of social isolation, and refer them to a host of support services. The service units will also recruit and train volunteers, including those with personal experience in overcoming family problems or crises, so that they can contact these families and encourage them to receive appropriate support services with a view to preventing the problems from deteriorating.

     The Comprehensive Child Development Service jointly implemented by the SWD, Education Bureau, Department of Health (DH) and Hospital Authority (HA) aims to identify, at an early stage, various health and social needs of children (aged 0 to 5) and their families; and to provide the necessary services so as to foster the healthy development of children. The Service makes use of the Maternal and Child Health Centres of the DH, the hospitals of the HA and other relevant service units, including IFSCs, ISCs and pre-primary institutions, to identify at-risk pregnant women, mothers with postnatal depression, families with psychosocial needs (including families at risk of domestic violence), and pre-primary children with health, developmental and behavioural problems. Children in need and families identified will be referred to the appropriate health and social service units for follow-up.

     The SWD has stepped up its efforts and services to instill in parents the importance of children's safety and to introduce a range of services to assist families in different needs. These efforts include public education and publicity, family life education and family counselling services. For example, in recent years, the SWD launched an animated short film on effective parenting and harmonious inter-generational family life, produced and launched a series of Announcements in the Public Interest (APIs) on television and radio as well as through posters, promulgating the messages that people should not resort to violence against partners and children, but should safeguard the healthy development of their children and seek early assistance etc. In 2017-18, the SWD will also launch a series of APIs on television and radio as well as through posters to publicise widely the message of child protection and prevention of child abuse in public transport systems and through hyperlinks to the social media.

     The Police also take child abuse reports very seriously, and will handle such cases with sensitivity and professionalism to achieve the dual objectives of protecting the victims of child abuse from further harm and bringing the offenders to justice. The Police will also maintain close liaison with overseas law enforcement agencies with regard to child abuse issues, including participating in the annual meeting of the INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes against Children, to keep abreast of overseas development in handling child abuse issues. Furthermore, the Police also, through active participation in relevant publicity and promotion activities, enhance public awareness of child protection and strengthen children's ability to protect themselves against abuse.

     The relevant Government departments will review the effectiveness of the services and publicity campaigns according to their needs.

(5) There are 11 FCPSUs under the SWD and they are specialised in providing services to the children and families affected by child abuse. The social workers of FCPSUs provide comprehensive services to the victims of child abuse, such as temporary residential care service and counselling service etc. In the course of providing follow-up services, the social worker will continuously review the situation of the children and their families and provide necessary assistance to them. Apart from helping the victim of child abuse, the social worker will provide necessary services to their families, including the perpetrators. The services include regular visits, counselling services (such as emotional management and counselling, parenting skills, parent-child relationship), financial assistance, and referral for psychological assessment when necessary, so as to ensure the protection of the well-being of the child. Besides, social workers of FCPSUs will arrange group counselling and developmental programmes for the affected child and the family to help them overcome the negative impact of the violent incident, develop their resilience and self-confidence, and re-establish their interpersonal and family relationship.

     The SWD currently only captures the statistics of the newly reported child abuse cases as provided in Annex 2 and does not separately collate the statistics on the attendances of the relevant services and the number of cases in which the abusers were found abusing children again within one year after receiving the services.
Ends/Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Issued at HKT 18:05
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