Hong Kong is to provide more resources to primary schools in order to boost social work and counselling services. It aims to eventually ensure there is one social worker available at each school.

The measure, announced by Financial Secretary Paul Chan during Wednesday’s 2018 budget speech, will kick in from the 2018-19 school year.

Paul Chan. Photo: GovHK.

Chan said he was sad to see several child abuse cases in recent months. He announced that HK$504 million will be allocated to launch a three-year pilot scheme to provide social work services to around 150,000 children and their families in kindergartens and care centres.

Earlier this year, the violent death of a five-year-old girl in Tuen Mun sparked concerns over child safety in the city. The girl’s father and stepmother were charged with murder over the incident. More cases of abuse subsequently surfaced.

According to the Social Welfare Department, there were 704 newly reported child abuse cases between January and September last year.

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“I will make optimal use of our resources to cater for those in need with the aim to build a caring and sharing society,” Chan said on Wednesday.

The provision of social workers in special schools will also be improved, and manpower strengthened for the Social Welfare Department’s Family and Child Protective Services Units. NGOs working on preventing domestic violence will also benefit. The package will amount to around HK$43 million in recurrent expenditure, according to the government.

Photo: GovHK.

Chan also announced that NGOs will be provided with subvention to set up cyber youth support teams in order to reach out to high-risk or “hidden” youth, while the ceilings for cash assistance will be raised. Quotas for disadvantaged children will be increased in the District Support Scheme for Children and Youth Development. The cash injections involve an additional recurrent expenditure of HK$20.5 million and HK$11 million respectively.

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Meanwhile, HK$92 million will be allocated to strengthen manpower of residential child care services. HK$56 million will go towards setting up five centres for separated or divorced families, and for boosting manpower at the Social Welfare Department’s relevant units to “enable early identification and more effective intervention for families at risk of separation or divorce.”

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.