Family and Child Welfare
The overall objective of the family and child
welfare programme is to preserve and strengthen the family as a
unit through assisting individuals and families to identify and
deal with their problems, or to prevent problems from arising, and
to provide for needs which cannot be met from within the family.
A comprehensive network of family and child welfare services is
provided by the department and NGOs.
Services for Families
The department adopts a three-pronged approach
to provide a continuum of services to support families.
At the primary level, prevention of problems and
crises is effected through publicity, education, empowerment and
early identification. The publicity campaign on Strengthening
Families and Combating Violence continues. Family Support and
Resource Centres provide drop-in service, mutual support and early
identification and referral of cases in need of welfare service.
Resources of these centres, among others, will be pooled to form
IFSCs in 2004-05. The department's hotline service also provides
information on social welfare services, and a Family Helpline manned
by social workers provides immediate telephone counselling for individuals
and families facing crisis.
At the secondary level, a range of support services,
from developmental programmes to intensive counselling is provided
through a network of Family ervices Centres and Integrated Family
Service Centres. A total of 83 205 cases were handled during
the year. There are also two integrated services centres serving
specific areas in Tung Chung and some parts of the outlying islands.
At the tertiary level, specialised services and
crisis intervention are provided through five Family and Child Protective
Services Units, the Family Crisis Support Centre and the Suicide
Crisis Intervention Centre. In addition, four Refuge Centres provide
162 short-term residential places for individuals in need, including
battered spouses and their children. They accept admission on a
24-hour basis. Two projects on the prevention and handling of elder
abuse are also being piloted.
Services for Street Sleepers
The problem of street-sleeping is tackled through
a package of integrated services, including outreach visits, counselling,
group activities, personal care, employment guidance and training,
emergency funding, immediate shelter/hostel placement as well as
service referrals. These services are provided by three NGO-operated
integrated services teams for street sleepers, together with urban
hostels for single persons operated by other NGOs. The Family Services
Centres/Integrated Family Service Centres also provide outreach,
counselling, financial and accommodation assistance, referral for
treatment and other support services to street sleepers.
Services for Children
The department provides a wide range of child
welfare services. The adoption service arranges permanent homes
for children abandoned by their parents or whose parents are unable
to support them. Residential child care services are provided for
children and young people who need care or protection because of
family crises or their behavioural or emotional problems. At year-end,
there were 765 places in foster care service, 944 places in small
group homes and 1 331 places in children's homes, boys' and
girls' homes and hostels.
Child care centres provide day care services for
children under the age of six years. At year-end, there were 28 660
day nursery places, 960 day creche places, 711 occasional child
care places and over 1 500 extended hour places provided in
270 aided child care centres. All child care centres have to register
under the Child Care Services Ordinance and Regulations. Low-income
families meeting a social need and means-test criteria will receive
financial assistance to pay fees for child care centres.
An inter-bureau/departmental working group has
been working on the details for implementing the harmonisation of
pre-primary services currently provided by child care centres and
kindergartens which serve children of a similar age. To re-define
the service scope and to align the existing different requirements
between the two services, a Child Care Services (Amendment) Bill
2005 will be introduced into the Legislative Council in April 2005.
A legislative amendment to the Adoption Ordinance
has been introduced to improve local adoption arrangements and give
effect in Hong Kong to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children
and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Adoption
(Amendment) Bill was passed in the Legislative Council on July 9,
2004 and the Adoption (Amendment) Ordinance was gazetted on July
23, 2004. Further legislative amendments to the subsidiary legislation
are being worked out.
The Administration commissioned the Duty Lawyer
Service to run the Legal Representation Scheme since October 1,
2003 for children and juveniles involved in care or protection proceedings
who are deprived of liberty and detained in a gazetted place of
refuge under the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance.
The Administration plans to enhance the scheme by extending its
scope of service to children and juveniles deprived of liberty and
detained in places other than a gazetted place of refuge.
The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA)
Scheme and the Social Security Allowance (SSA) Scheme form the mainstay
of Hong Kong's social security system. They are supplemented by
three accident compensation schemes: the Criminal and Law Enforcement
Injuries Compensation Scheme, the Traffic Accident Victims Assistance
Scheme, and Emergency Relief. There are 37 Social Security Field
Units administering these schemes across Hong Kong.
The CSSA Scheme
The CSSA Scheme is non-contributory but means-tested.
The scheme provides cash assistance to people suffering from financial
hardship, enabling them to meet basic needs. Applicants should satisfy
the stipulated residence requirements. At year-end, there were 295 694
CSSA cases benefiting 542 017 persons, compared with 290 206
cases and 522 456 persons in 2003. Total expenditure on CSSA
during the year amounted to $17.67 billion, an increase of 2 per
cent over the previous year.
Elderly CSSA recipients who have received CSSA
for not less than three years are allowed under the Portable CSSA
Scheme to continue to receive assistance if they choose to retire
to Guangdong Province.
The SSA Scheme
The non-contributory SSA Scheme provides allowances
to meet the special needs of the severely disabled and elderly persons.
The scheme comprises Normal Disability Allowance, Higher Disability
Allowance, Normal Old Age Allowance and Higher Old Age Allowance.
At year-end, 566 446 people were receiving SSA, compared with
563 880 in 2003. Total expenditure during the year was $5.24
billion, a decrease of 0.6 per cent over the previous year.
Revised Residence Requirements for Social
From January 1, 2004, to be eligible for CSSA
or SSA, an applicant must have been a Hong Kong resident for at
least seven years and have resided in Hong Kong continuously for
at least one year immediately before the date of application. The
adoption of the seven-year residence requirement is to ensure a
rational basis for allocation of public resources. This requirement
does not apply to those who became Hong Kong residents before January
1, 2004. Hong Kong residents aged below 18 applying for CSSA or
a disability allowance under the SSA Scheme are exempted from any
prior residence requirement.
Accident Compensation Schemes
The Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation
Scheme offers ex-gratia payments on
a non-means-tested basis to innocent victims injured or to dependants
of those killed in crimes of violence or through the action of a
law enforcement officer using a weapon in the execution of his duties.
During the year, $11.67 million was paid out in 630 cases, compared
with $9.68 million in the previous year. The Traffic Accident Victims
Assistance (TAVA) Scheme offers speedy financial assistance for
people injured or for dependants of those killed in road accidents
on a non-means-tested basis, regardless of the element of fault
leading to the occurrence of the accident. During the year, $157.38
million was paid out in 6 190 cases, compared with $154.70 million
Emergency relief in the form of cooked meals or
cash grants in lieu of cooked meals and other essential relief articles
is provided to victims of natural and other disasters. Grants from
the Emergency Relief Fund are paid to eligible victims (or to their
dependants in cases of death). Emergency relief was given to 60
victims on nine occasions during the year.
Social Security Appeal Board
The Social Security Appeal Board considers appeals
against the SWD's decisions concerning CSSA, SSA and TAVA. It heard
204 appeals during the year.
Services for Elders
The basic principle underlying services for elders
is to provide senior citizens with a sense of security, a sense
of belonging and a feeling of health and worthiness. The aim is
to promote the well-being of people aged 60 and above in all aspects
of their life through provision of services that will enable them
to remain active members of the community for as long as possible,
and, to the extent necessary, to provide residential care suited
to their varying needs. The department has been operating an Opportunities
for the Elderly Project since 1999 to provide subsidies to
community organisations to plan and implement programmes to promote
a sense of worthiness among elders and enhance community care for
them. During the year, 291 programmes were implemented, with grants
amounting to $2.7 million. These programmes are in line with the
Government's ongoing initiative of promoting active and healthy
Community Support Services
Community support services are provided to elders
who require assistance to continue living at home. Support is also
provided for their care-givers. At year-end, there were 260 centres
for the elderly (including district elderly community centres, day-care
centres/units for the elderly, social centres for the elderly and
neighbourhood elderly centres), 110 elderly services teams (including
district-based integrated home care services teams, enhanced home
and community care services teams, support teams for the elderly,
and a home help team), and one holiday centre for the elderly. In
August 2004, integrated home care services (frail cases) were extended
to people with disabilities and suffering from a severe physical
handicap. They provide a comprehensive package of care services
including personal and nursing care and rehabilitation exercises
to disabled persons to help them live in the community.
Under the Senior Citizen Card Scheme, 958 191
Senior Citizen Cards have been issued by year-end. A total of 8 263
companies, organisations, government departments with 14 819
units and outlets, and 1 854 medical units with 2 074 branches
participated in the scheme to provide concessions, discounts and
priority services to senior citizens.
Residential Care Services
Residential care services are provided for elders
who need daily care and are unable to live at home for various reasons.
At year-end, there were 26 987 subsidised residential care
places for the elderly, including 7 398 self-care (S/C) hostel
places and home for the aged (H/A) places, 11 587 subsidised
care-and-attention home places, 1 765 subsidised nursing home
places, and 6 237 purchased places in private residential care
homes for the elderly (RCHEs).
To meet the growing care needs of elders, SWD
will gradually convert existing S/C and H/A places into long-term
care places starting from 2005, to provide frail elders with continuous
of care up to nursing home level.
The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance
provides legislative control over all RCHEs. Upon all RCHEs meeting
the required licensing standard in 2002, a number of service improvement
measures have been taken to further upgrade the service quality,
particularly that of private homes. These initiatives include the
enhancement of infection control measures in RCHEs since end-2003,
dissemination of information to the public and stepping up prosecution
actions against non-compliant homes. Meanwhile, the department is
reviewing and amending the Code of Practice for Residential Care
Homes (Elderly Persons) to strengthen the health care and service
quality of RCHEs to safeguard the well-being of residents.
A variety of rehabilitation services are provided
by government departments and NGOs to meet the needs of people with
disabilities, with the objective of integrating them into society
and helping them to fully develop their capabilities. These services
are coordinated by the Commissioner for Rehabilitation on the advice
of the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee.
Services for Children with Disabilities
At year-end, the NGOs provided 1 776 integrated
programme places in ordinary child care centres, 1 344 special
child care centre places (including 102 residential places) and
1 924 early education and training centre places for pre-school
disabled children. For autistic children, an enhanced training programme
with input from clinical psychologists was provided in special child
care centres. In addition, there were 66 small group home places
for school-age mentally handicapped children requiring residential
Services for Adults with Disabilities
The Marketing Consultancy Office (Rehabilitation)
of the Social Welfare Department provides assistance in the marketing
and business development of sheltered workshops and supported employment
services. With a view to promoting integration of people with disabilities
into society, 1 655 supported employment places were provided
in 2004 for those who were able to work in open settings with the
necessary counselling and support service. For those not yet ready
to compete in the open job market, 5 154 sheltered workshop
places were provided to help them develop work skills. In addition,
453 places in integrated vocational training centres provided a
series of vocational training and rehabilitation services. Some
2 889 places in integrated vocational rehabilitation services
centres provided such services to people with disabilities in a
one-stop setting. There were 3 981 day activity centre places
for mentally handicapped people and 230 training and activity centre
places for ex-mentally ill people to help them become more independent.
Five social clubs for ex-mentally ill persons and 17 social and
recreational centres for others with disabilities were set up to
encourage participation in the community through various leisure
As for residential services, there were 5 912
hostel and home places, and 279 supported hostel places for people
with disabilities who could neither live independently nor be adequately
cared for by their families. For aged blind people who were unable
to look after themselves adequately, or in need of care and attention,
899 places were provided in homes for the aged blind and in care-and-attention
homes. For chronic and ex-mentally ill patients, there were 1 005
long stay care home places and 1 349 halfway house places.
Professional Back-up and Support Services
Professional back-up services from clinical psychologists,
occupational therapists and physiotherapists are provided for people
with disabilities in rehabilitation day centres and hostels. A speech
therapy service is also provided for disabled children attending
pre-school rehabilitation centres. In addition, there are other
support services, including home-based training and support services
for mentally handicapped and severely disabled persons, a community
mental health link and after-care service for dischargees of halfway
houses, and a community rehabilitation network for people with a
visceral disability or chronic illness. A respite service for handicapped
persons, occasional child care service for disabled pre-schoolers
and six parents resource centres are also provided to meet the special
needs of families with disabled members.
Medical Social Services
Medical social workers provide patients and their
families with individual and group counselling, financial aid, housing
assistance or referral to other community resources to facilitate
their treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
To provide easy access to patients and their family members, medical
social workers are stationed in public hospitals and specialist
clinics so that immediate advice and assistance can be given to
those in need. During the year, 152 600 cases received services
from 349 medical social workers.
The SWD administers the Trust Fund for SARS. The
Fund was established to provide ex-gratia relief payments
for eligible families of deceased SARS patients and ex-gratia
financial assistance for eligible recovered SARS patients or 'suspected'
SARS patients treated with steroids who suffer from longer term
effects attributable to SARS (including the effects of medication
received), that might have resulted in some degree of relevant dysfunction.
By year-end, a total of 1 083 applications had been received,
involving 317 deceased patients and 766 from recovered/suspected
patients. Of these, 855 applications had been approved, involving
Services for Offenders
Under related ordinances, the department discharges
statutory functions and provides community-based and residential
services to help offenders reintegrate into the community and become
The probation service serves offenders aged 10
and above. Probation officers assess the offenders' suitability
for probation supervision and make recommendations to the courts.
They also monitor probationers' compliance with probation orders.
During the year, 2 897 offenders were placed on probation.
Probation officers also prepare reports on long-term prisoners and
petition cases for consideration of early released.
Offenders aged 14 or above and convicted of an
offence punishable by imprisonment may be placed on Community Service
Orders which require offenders to perform unpaid community work.
During the year, 1 843 offenders were put under such orders.
Six residential homes, with a total capacity of
380 places, provide educational, prevocational and character training
for juvenile offenders as well as children and young persons with
behavioural or family problems.
The Young Offender Assessment Panel, jointly operated
by the SWD and the Correctional Services Department (CSD), provides
the courts with coordinated professional views on sentencing options
for offenders aged 14 to 24. The Post-Release Supervision of Prisoners
Scheme, another joint service of the SWD and CSD, assists discharged
prisoners in their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.
During the year, 423 ex-prisoners were placed under supervision.
One NGO is subvented to provide hostel and supportive services for
Services for Young People
The overall objective of welfare services for young
people is to help those aged between six and 24 years to develop
into mature, responsible and contributing members of society through
a range of preventive, supportive and remedial services.
At year-end, 131 Integrated Children and Youth
Services Centres (ICYSCs) were providing children and youth centre
services, outreach social work services, school social work services
and, where possible, family life education under one management
to address the changing needs of youth in an integrated and holistic
manner. At the same time, 18 ICYSCs with additional resources provided
overnight outreach services to address the needs of young night
drifters. During the year, joint funding from the Hong Kong Jockey
Club Charities Trust and the Lotteries Fund was approved for 34
ICYSCs throughout the territory to undergo the second phase of the
modernisation programme. Through improving the physical environment
and providing modern furniture and equipment, these centres have
been made more appealing to contemporary youth.
At year-end, 484 secondary schools were each provided
with one school social worker unit to identify and help students
with academic, social and emotional problems maximise their educational
opportunities, develop their potential and prepare for responsible
adulthood. Sixteen District Youth Outreaching Social Work Teams
addressed the needs of high-risk youth and dealt with juvenile gang
For early identification of the developmental
needs of students and, where necessary, timely intervention with
a primary preventive programme, the Understanding the Adolescent
Project was implemented in 292 secondary schools in the 2004-05
The Community Support Services Scheme (CSSS) assists
young people who have broken the law or are at risk. By year-end,
six CSSS teams, one operated by the department and five by NGOs,
had provided services to the targeted clientele.
With a view to enhancing support for young offenders,
the department and the Police Force were reviewing the mechanism
of 'Family Conference' for juveniles cautioned under the Police
Superintendent's Discretion Scheme introduced in October 2003.
With the aim of helping young drug abusers abstain
from drug-taking habits and reintegrate into the community, a multi-modal
approach has been adopted to provide drug treatment and rehabilitation
services. At year-end, the department was subventing 15 voluntary
drug treatment and rehabilitation centres/halfway houses, five counselling
centres for psychotropic substance abusers and two social clubs
for ex-drug abusers. Under the requirements of the Drug Dependent
Persons Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres (Licensing) Ordinance,
38 certificates of exemption and six licences valid for drug dependence
treatment centres had been issued or renewed by year-end.
To enhance cooperation among relevant youth services,
18 Local Committees on Services for Young People, chaired by the
District Social Welfare Officers, coordinate the provision of youth
services at district level.