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LCQ12: Child care services
     Following is a question by the Hon Ho Kai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (March 28):
     In response to an ageing population and the trend of a shrinking labour force in Hong Kong, the Government has indicated that it will take measures to release women to join the labour market. However, some women's groups have pointed out that in Hong Kong, there is currently a shortage of subsidised child care services (e.g. child care services and after-school care services). As a result, quite a number of women are unable to join the labour market as they need to take care of their children.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the details of the subsidised child care services currently available in various districts, and set out in tabulated form, broken down by District Council district and name of service provider, (i) the number of places and a breakdown of the figure by mode of service delivery (e.g. service hours), and (ii) the average staff-child ratio, in respect of each type of child care services;
(2) whether it knows the details of the public child care services currently available in places such as the Mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, etc., as well as the relevant experience and practices which are of reference value to Hong Kong for enhancing its child care services; and
(3) whether it will consider (i) increasing the number of subsidised child care service places, and (ii) encouraging the relevant organisations to offer more child care service training courses to assist women in working as home-based child carers or engaging in other child care jobs, so as to release more women to join the labour market?
Reply :
     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has all along been subsidising non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide a variety of child care services, including aided standalone child care centres (CCCs), aided CCCs attached to kindergartens (KGs), occasional child care service (OCCS), extended hours service (EHS) and the Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project (NSCCP). The numbers of places of all these services broken down by District Council district are set out in Annex 1. The service nature, service hours and the ratio of serving staff to the children receiving service are set out in Annex 2. As regards the information of the above services broken down by organisation, please refer to the following website: www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_family/sub_listofserv/id_childcares/
     In addition, after school care service is operated by NGOs on a self-financing and fee-charging basis to provide support services for children aged 6 to 12. The SWD provides assistance to the needy and eligible families through the "Fee-waiving Subsidy Scheme (FWSS) under the After School Care Programme (ASCP)" to enable parents of low-income families to attend work or receive vocational training.  Currently, there are 156 ASCP centres operated by 55 NGOs joining the FWSS. The service hours of the after school care service are generally from 3pm or 4pm to 7pm or 8pm from Mondays to Fridays.  The numbers of ASCP places and full fee-waiving places broken down by District Council district and organisation are set out in Annex 3. To further strengthen support for parents with long or unstable working hours, or those who need to work during weekends, the SWD has since December 2014 provided additional subvention to some of the NGOs operating the ASCP by increasing the fee-waiving and fee-reduction places, so that they can provide extended service hours on weekday evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays, including from 3pm to 9pm on weekdays, eight service hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and ten service hours on school holidays. Currently, there are 34 ASCP centres operated by 18 NGOs providing the enhanced ASCP. The number of full fee-waiving places provided under the enhanced ASCP broken down by District Council district and organisation is set out in Annex 4. The SWD does not collate the information in respect of the average staff-to-child ratio of after school care service.
(2) In order to further review the existing supply and demand of child care services and formulate the way forward for the long-term planning of these services, the SWD commissioned The University of Hong Kong to conduct a "Consultancy Study on the Long-term Development of Child Care Services" (the Study) in December 2016. The Study will make reference to the experiences of other countries in providing child care services, conduct in-depth analyses of different aspects of child care services, including objectives, contents, targets, financing modes, service models, demand and supply situation, facility planning, manpower planning and training etc., and make recommendations. The SWD expects that the Study will be completed within 2018.
(3) To support women in fulfilling work and family commitments, the Government will continue to monitor the demand for child care services and plan for new CCCs in districts with acute demand, including the provision of a total of about 300 additional aided standalone CCC places in phases in North District, Kwun Tong District, Kwai Tsing District and Sha Tin District starting from 2018-19. The Government also plans to provide an additional 3 800 EHS places in phases having regard to the district demand. Besides, the Government encourages NGOs to set up CCCs under the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses, and is exploring the feasibility of providing on a pilot basis 100 NGO-operated child care places for staff members in the proposed Government Complex in Tseung Kwan O.
     To further support needy families in meeting their service needs in taking care of their children, the SWD implemented the "Pilot Scheme on Relaxing the Household Income Limit of the Fee-waiving Subsidy Scheme under the After School Care Programme for Low-income Families and Increasing Fee-waiving Subsidy Places" (the Pilot Scheme) through the Community Care Fund (CCF) in October 2017. The Pilot Scheme, with an overall provision of $52 million, will last for three years, providing an additional 2 000 full fee-waiving places. It is expected that about 3 000 children will be benefited.  As at end-February 2018, there were a total of 210 persons benefitting from the fee-waiving subsidies of the Pilot Scheme. If more fee-waiving subsidy places are required, the SWD will consider applying for additional resources under the CCF to meet such service need.
     On the other hand, in accordance with the requirements of the Child Care Services Ordinance (Cap. 243) and the Child Care Services Regulations (Cap. 243A), CCCs providing service to children aged below 3 must employ registered child care workers (CCWs) and child care supervisors (CCSs) with certificates of a training course approved by the Director of Social Welfare (DSW) or the equivalent qualification to take care of the children. As such, the SWD has been exploring with relevant tertiary institutions to launch more DSW-recognised (self-financing) training courses for the registration of CCWs/CCSs, so as to meet the need for maintaining/expanding the CCC service. Besides, in accordance with the service agreement between the SWD and the NSCCP operators, the latter is required to provide appropriate training to those women/persons who are ready and suitable to serve as home-based child carers, and the training contents generally include child care skills, children's nutrition, awareness of suspected child abuse and home safety, etc., so as to enhance their confidence to become home-based child carers under the NSCCP, and ensure service quality.
Ends/Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Issued at HKT 19:26
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