CB(2) 560/98-99(02)

Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services

Meeting on 9 November 1998
Social Welfare Services
for Young People in Hong Kong


This paper outlines the range of welfare services available for young people in Hong Kong.


2. As set out in the 1998 Welfare Services Policy Booklet, the overall objective of children and youth services is to provide support and opportunities to young people particularly, for those at risk, so as to help them become responsible and contributing members of the community.

Service Delivery

3. Welfare services for young people are delivered mainly through children and youth centres, the outreach social work service, the school social work service and integrated teams. We have also deployed dedicated teams under the Against Substance Abuse Scheme and the Community Support Service Schemes to help, respectively, young substance abusers, and marginal youth who have either infringed, or who are on the verge of infringing, the law.

Target Group and Service Approach

4. Our services are designed to serve the youth population in Hong Kong, with special emphasis on those who are in disadvantaged circumstances or who are at risk. Our approach is to address the ever-changing and multi-faceted needs of young people in a "holistic" manner. To this end, we will continue to encourage the formation of integrated teams to provide for greater flexibility in the use of resources and programming.

5. In view of growing concerns in the community about problems faced by young people in disadvantaged circumstances, a Working Group on Services for Youth at Risk chaired by the Director of Social Welfare (DSW), has been established to examine major issues for the marginal youth population. The Working Group, comprising representatives from Government departments and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), helps enhance inter-disciplinary co-operation in providing preventive and remedial services for the marginal youth.

Present Position

6. (a) Children and Youth Centres (CYCs)

As at October 1998, there are 204 children and youth centres. These are neighbourhood-based facilities providing opportunities for young people to participate in group and community affairs. The core programmes of CYCs are: guidance and counselling service, supportive service for young people in disadvantaged circumstances, socialisation programmes and development of social responsibility and competence. Following a comprehensive review in 1994, CYCs are encouraged to provide more social work oriented services and set their priorities in accordance with local needs and district characteristics.

(b) School Social Work

The objective of the school social work service is to help students whose academic, social and emotional development is at risk. It seeks to assist young people to solve their personal problems and encourages them to make the best use of their educational opportunities and to prepare them for adulthood. As at October 1998, there are 300 school social workers serving 443 secondary schools.

The positive contribution from school social workers to young people is fully recognised by a Working Group, (comprising representatives from Government Departments, and the education and welfare sectors), which has been formed to review the effectiveness of the service. The review takes into account the provision of school based and community based support services for students. The Working Group recognises there is room for improvement in the school social work service and has recommended a package of improvement measures, including better interfacing between school-based and non-school based services. The review report of the Working Group is being finalised.

(c) Outreach Social Work

Outreach social work services seek to reach out and establish contact with young people who are socially maladjusted or who have developed disruptive, delinquent or even self-destructive behaviour. The aim of the service is to help them overcome their problems, and facilitate their smooth integration into the community. There are now 34 outreach social work teams providing services throughout the territory.

(d) Integrated Teams (IT)

Integrated Teams provide a flexible mode of service delivery through pooling together resources from existing services for youth, (i.e., children and youth centres, outreach social work and school social work services). Compared to the conventional mode of service provision which is more compartmentalised in its mode of delivery, the simple management structure of ITs allows greater flexibility in the deployment of resources and helps enhance responsiveness to changing needs of young people. As at October 1998, 21 ITs have been formed.

(e) Against Substance Abuse Scheme

The scheme was launched in October 1995 by the Social Welfare Department to enhance the secondary preventive services for young people with the habit of occasional substance abuse. The project covers a series of structured activities which include therapeutic group work service, drug education workshops and substance-abuse prevention programmes.

(f) Services for Young Offenders

SWD provides a variety of programmes for young offenders, to help them become responsible citizens and re-integrate into the community. This is achieved through both community-based and residential services, using various social work approaches. Numerous services are provided to enable young offenders to acquire valuable and necessary skills. Through proper supervision and counselling, as well as academic, vocational and social skills training, young offenders are taught how to become law-abiding members of the community.

Examples of these services include the probation service, the provision of residential training for young offenders, Community Service Orders and the Community Support Services Scheme. Resources have been secured in the current year for the Community Service Order to be extended from Magistracies to include the District Courts and all Higher Courts. Under this scheme, offenders are allowed to perform unpaid work of benefit to the community for a specified number of hours as a sentencing option Starting in 1998-99, three Community Support Services Schemes operated by SWD and NGOs will be run on a permanent basis to help rehabilitate juvenile offenders through community-based services such as job training packages and counselling groups.

Under the Working Group on Youth at Risk, resources have been provided to fund pilot projects (first introduced in 1997-98) to develop a screening tool for early identification of students at risk in secondary schools. In addition, two youth mobile teams have been set up as a pilot project to establish contact and offer assistance to young night-drifters.

(g) Uniformed Organisations

There are eight uniformed organisations receiving government subvention, namely, the Scout Association; the Boys' Bridgade; the Girls' Brigade; the Girl Guides Association; Red Cross; St. John's Ambulance Association and Brigade; Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps and Hong Kong Sea Cadet Corps. The objectives of uniformed youth organisations are to provide young people with opportunities for self-development, character building and leadership development. Members of these uniformed organisations are also given an opportunity to participate in international activities in keeping with the objective of helping young people develop an international perspective.

(h) Youth Offices

SWD has set up youth offices in all 18 Districts to co-ordinate and facilitate existing youth groups and community organisations in their organisation of leadership training and voluntary services. They also assist new youth groups to develop programmes to meet community needs.

(i) Protective Services for the Young People

The Government also provides early intervention, counselling and practical assistance to children or young people whose safety is threatened by the action or neglect of their parents or guardians or others. In response to the rising number of young people or children being abused, physically or psychologically, the SWD's Child Protection Services Unit, with its 32 social workers in 3 regionalised teams, will step up its treatment and support programmes for the abused children and their families. An inter-departmental Working Group on Child Abuse, chaired by the Director of Social Welfare, has been established to strengthen multi-disciplinary cooperation in the handling of child abuse cases and educating the public on how to tackle the problem.

Financial Data

5. In the 1998/99 recurrent subvention for the above services, is estimated to be $1,254 Million. Details are at the Annex.

Future direction of youth services

6. The Chief Executive, in his Policy Address, emphasised the importance of developing our young people to become all-rounders. Not only should young people be able to master the knowledge and skills required in a modern, information-technology oriented society, but they should also be individuals capable of independent thinking and prepared to uphold uphold strong moral principles. By promoting volunteerism in the community, we aim to instil a positive value system in our young people.

7. A Central Office for Volunteer Service was set up in SWD in September 1997 to develop volunteer service in a more co-ordinated manner. A database has been set up to register individual and corporate volunteers and a volunteer enquiry line provided. At the district level, District Co-ordinating Committees on Volunteer Movement have been set up in all 13 SWD districts to co-ordinate volunteer services. By encouraging people from all walks of life to become active in voluntary work, we aim to see Hong Kong as a more caring community.

Role of the Family and the School

8. The family and the school are the two major social institutions underpinning the growth of young people. They are where our young people acquire their skills, develop their value system, nurture self-esteem and grow to become useful members of the community. Teacher and parents play a pivotal role in the course of young people's development. As such, they should be actively involved in the actual delivery of supportive programmes for young people. It is therefore important to continue to strengthen the protective and preventive roles of both the family and the school. We will also consider how different services now being provided by families, by schools and by the community, can be better interfaced so as to ensure that the best possible support services are available for our young people.

Health and Welfare Bureau/Social Welfare Department
November 1998


Estimated Recurrent Subvention and Expenses for Young People Services in 1998/99

Children and youth centre526
Outreaching social work117
School social work171
Integrated teams90
Uniformed organisations37
Youth offices37
Protective Services for Youth & Children26
Against Substance Abuse Scheme16
Community Support Service Scheme4
Residential Homes for the marginal youth or young offenders122
Probation Order *90
Community Service Order *18

* Not allocated specially for young people