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Speech by CS at Heep Hong Society 2018 Charity Dinner (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Heep Hong Society 2018 Charity Dinner "Growing Potential Shining Tomorrow" today (April 17):

Mr Peter Wan (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Heep Hong Society), Ms Nancy Tsang (Chief Executive Officer of Heep Hong Society), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening. I feel deeply honoured to join you all tonight to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Heep Hong Society (Heep Hong).

     For over half a century, Heep Hong has grown from strength to strength. It was established in 1963 by a group of caring ladies to offer post-hospital rehabilitation services to children who suffered from Poliomyelitis. Today, Heep Hong has become a leading education and training organisation for children and youth. It commands enormous respect from the community for its commitment to unleashing the potential of these young people and helping them integrate into society. 

     Heep Hong's 900-strong team of professionals including psychologist, therapists, teachers, nurses and social workers provides professional assessment, guidance, training and family support to more than 10 000 families every year at over 40 service units, as well as numerous mainstream kindergartens, primary and secondary schools across the territory. 

     The theme of tonight's charity dinner is "Growing Potential Shining Tomorrow".  It is indeed a perfect reflection of Heep Hong's mission to maximise the potential of children with special needs, empower their families and facilitate their inclusion into the community for a fulfilling life.
     To achieve this laudable goal, Heep Hong has pioneered a host of innovative services over the years. These include:
  • establishment of mixed mode centres to help children with special educational needs  such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dyslexia and ADHD;
  • extension of support services at kindergartens and nursery schools, primary and secondary schools through the "Supportive Learning Project" to help students integrate into mainstream education;
  • launch of the Academy for Professional Education and Development  to provide a full spectrum of training courses for practitioners and parents;
  • establishment of the first-of-its-kind Jockey Club STAR Resource Centre to provide one-stop service for ASD children, youth and their families; and
  • introduction of the Pilot Project on Strengthening Support for Persons with Autism and their Parents/Carers to support youth in meeting challenges at different life stages.
     The Government shares Heep Hong's admirable vision and has introduced various policy measures to enable children with special needs to acquire necessary training in the prime training period. We have regularised the Pilot Scheme on On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services so that interdisciplinary service teams formed under the Pilot Scheme can provide on-site rehabilitation service and training to more children who are awaiting subvented services from the Social Welfare Department. We have earmarked $460 million a year in government recurrent expenditure to increase the service places from about 3 000 to 7 000 in two years. Heep Hong as in the past is a staunch supporter of Government's initiative for children with special needs and is offering 475 training places under the Scheme.

     To avoid prolonged delay of treatment for children who are queuing for subvented pre-school rehabilitation services, we have introduced the Training Subsidy Programme to provide non-means tested training subsidy to these children for treatment from recognised service providers. I am glad to note that Heep Hong takes an active part in this programme and 34 of its service units have been approved to be recognised service providers providing a total of 733 training places.

     We are also mindful of the support that disadvantaged children may need at different development stages. To allow primary schools to start planning in advance and prepare appropriate services for these children to facilitate their integration into primary education, the Education Bureau and Social Welfare Department have developed a mechanism to transfer the progress reports of pre-school children with special education need from on-site pre-school rehabilitation services and other subvented rehabilitation services to designated public-funded primary schools.

     In line with the principle of "intervention before assessment", the Education Bureau has further implemented the "Early Identification and Intervention Programme for Primary One Students with Learning Difficulties" in all public sector primary schools to identify students with learning difficulties so that they can be provided with timely and suitable intervention at an early stage.

     To meet the special needs of these children when they move from childhood to adulthood, we will regularise the Pilot Project on Strengthening Support for Persons with Autism and their Parents/Carers from this October. Multi-disciplinary teams with clinical psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists are formed under the Project to help young persons with high-functioning autism to cope with different challenges during their transition into adulthood. The teams also provide support services to parents and carers of persons with autism, in addition to professional support and training for subvented rehabilitation service units serving persons with autism.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is determined to build a harmonious and inclusive society. However, government's effort alone is not enough. We need the support of relevant sectors of the community along the road to meet this ambitious objective. I am most pleased to have the unfailing support from the Heep Hong Society over the past 55 years to help our children with special needs to integrate into our community.

     I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ms Nancy Tsang, Chief Executive Officer of Heep Hong Society, for her outstanding leadership over the years. While this may be the last time for Nancy to attend this charity dinner in the capacity of the Chief Executive Officer of the Society, I am most certain that she will continue to contribute her expertise and support to the well-being of our next generation in different capacity in the years ahead. 

     I would also like to express my sincerest gratitude to all staff, parents and practitioners for your enthusiastic support for integrated education and pre-school rehabilitation services in Hong Kong.

     On this happy note, I wish Heep Hong continuous success in the years ahead and all of you an enjoyable and memorable evening. Thank you.
Ends/Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Issued at HKT 20:38
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