LEGCO PANEL ON WELFARE SERVICES
THE ACTIVE EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMEINTRODUCTION
UNDER THE 'SUPPORT FOR SELF-RELIANCE' SCHEME
The Active Employment Assistance (AEA) programme under the 'Support for Self-reliance' Scheme is due to be implemented on 1 June 1999, together with other recommendations in the Review of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme (see Appendix I
for paragraphs 35 and 36 of the Report).
2. To pave the way for the implementation of the AEA programme, an inter-departmental co-ordinating group headed by the Assistant Director (Social Security) of Social Welfare and including the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the Labour Department (LD), the Employees Retraining Board (ERB), has been meeting since October 1998 (joined by the Education Department (ED) in January 1999). It focuses mainly on developing a co-ordinated programme of employment-related services for CSSA recipients as a stepping stone off welfare dependency, ranging from counselling and retraining to employment services.
PROGRESS OF WORK
3. Vigorous work is underway to ensure that the AEA programme can be successfully launched on 1 June 1999. Additional measures underway in various departments are described below:
- A special team was set up at Headquarters on 18 November 1998 to draw up implementation details for the AEA programme.
- The Social Welfare Department intends to deploy initially one to two staff in each Social Security Field Unit as Active Employment (AE) Co-ordinators, subject to modifications in the light of actual experience.
- Adopting a one-to-one customer/worker approach, these AE Co-ordinators will serve as an information provider and facilitator to proactively encourage and help each able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipient to:
- accept the intrinsic values of employment;
- identify barriers of work;
- understand what employment/retraining opportunities are available at the local employment service (LES) of LD and ERB;
- make the right decision about jobs/retraining;
- develop and follow through a personal work plan towards self-reliance.
- The AE Co-ordinators will be provided with a comprehensive package of in-service training around mid-May 1999, so that they can fully understand the vision of the 'Support for Self-reliance' Scheme, and possess the prerequisite job knowledge, customer care and interpersonal skills to direct the unemployed back to work through customised service intervention.
- Job search is to be further supported by the introduction of the 'Online Active Employment Information Service' before end of April 1999. This project will install a computer at each Social Security Field Unit, giving unemployed CSSA recipients instant online access to the web sites of LES(LD), ERB, the HK Council of Social Service (HKCSS), and the Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA).
- A number of pilot projects have been developed on a localised basis to cultivate a climate of active employment (details at paragraphs 6-7 below).
- Ongoing referrals of socially handicapped unemployed adults (discharged prisoners, ex-drug addicts, probationers, youth at risk, and persons with personality problems) and new arrivals, as well as single parents, as appropriate, to the HKCSS Employment Service.
- SWD is co-ordinating closely with the HKCSS on monitoring and evaluating two employment-related projects that have been allocated Lotteries Fund grants:
'The District-based Employment Support Network', which provides (i) online job vacancy/retraining information in 41 Employment Information/Support Centres on a territory-wide basis ( About 15,600 persons have visited the web site of the Programme since its kick-off in mid-January 1999 ) and (ii) programmes of seminars, exhibitions, etc. to advise the unemployed on job search activities.
'The Job Matching Programme', which aims at assisting 240 unemployed CSSA recipients to find relief worker jobs in the welfare sector. Following the HKCSS's decision to start the project at New Territories East, it was agreed that their staff would promote the programme through the CSSA Customer Liaison Groups of the Region before 31 March 1999, followed by matching up with suitable customers from the caseload of the seven regional Social Security Field Units.
- SWD has drawn up a framework for data collection for the evaluation of the SFS Scheme. The effectiveness of the AEA programme will be assessed as part and parcel of the evaluation of the Scheme. Assessment will be made from both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Before-and-after comparisons will be made to measure the effectiveness of the AEA programme in the following areas:
- success in regaining employment;
- greater efforts to seek work;
- improved skills in job seeking;
- additional training/skills required;
- positive attitude toward work/self-reliance.
( Base data will be collected from 1 April 1999 to help measure the effectiveness of the programme once implemented ).
- Referring to world wide experience that programmes of this type are relatively more effective with newcomers to the caseload, SWD is considering beginning AEA with new applicants, and then working backwards into the existing caseload by phases
- LD has stepped up its employment services to job seekers, including CSSA recipients. New measures include extending the opening hours of employment centres since mid-1998 and opening the new Telephone Employment Service Centre in February 1999.
- Information is disseminated to CSSA recipients to invite them to participate in job search activities, such as exhibitions and job bazaars. These activities provide CSSA recipients with the latest labour market information and help them to secure employment promptly.
- During the six-month period ending February 1999, the LES of the LD registered 24,677 CSSA recipients, made 7,997 job referrals and secured 413 placements; representing an increase of 103.2%, 327.4% and 153.4% respectively when compared with the six-month period ending February 1998.
- To assist unemployed CSSA recipients of working age to re-enter the labour market, LD will provide SWD with direct access to the LES vacancy information through the Internet for the Online Active Employment Information Service ( item (b) under SWD refers ). On obtaining such vacancy information through SWD, CSSA recipients will be able to arrange job interviews with employers directly. LES will provide further additional employment assistance for CSSA recipients, such as enrolment in the LD Job Matching programme, as and when required as they do for non- CSSA job seekers.
- Setting up a 'one-stop-service' to strengthen retraining services, including two telephone hotlines at 2311 6696 (for employees) and 2311 8381 (for employers) since mid-1998.
- With effect from 1 April 1998, the admission age of 30 has been relaxed to allow those aged below 30 to enrol in full-time retraining courses if they have met employment difficulties. Since the relaxation, the total number of retrainee applicants has increased by some 8%.
- At present, ERB is offering through 52 active training bodies a total of over 150 full-time or part-time retraining courses which are market-driven. Placement assistance is offered by training bodies to retrainee graduates of full-time courses catering for the unemployed. Examples include the following:
- The strengthening of domestic helper training to cater for strong market demand, especially on Hong Kong Island. The total number of retrainees on domestic helpers courses has increased by 132% from 1,613 in 1997 to 3,738 in 1998. Efforts are being developed by training bodies to enhance retraining-cum-job-matching for domestic helpers.
- A 9-month Certificate of Skills Training (Service Industries) Course jointly organised with the Vocational Training Centre (VTC) to provide intensive basic skills training for the service industries for 1,000 unemployed persons from September 1998 to June 1999.
- Plans to include a training module on 'soft skills' in all retraining courses, to cover elements like work attitude, team spirit, customer service and politeness, etc.
Networking with retraining course providing agencies
- ED subvents non-government organizations to run over 1,600 adult education programmes for about 28,000 students. These classes are held at different times of the day to cater for different target groups. Some courses are specifically offered for CSSA recipients, e.g. 'Basic Career Course for CSSA Single Parents'.
- ED will encourage non-governmental organisations to run more suitable day-time courses for single parents.
- ED would encourage schools, through the School Liaison Committee in each district, to provide facilities to accommodate students from CSSA families who need to stay behind after school hours. However, such arrangements would depend on the individual circumstances of schools.
- Students may also make use of the study rooms facilities provided by schools under the Temporary Study Room Scheme in-place each year from April to June. In 1999, there were 28 temporary study room centres throughout the territory.
- In addition to these temporary study rooms, the Education Department also subvents non-profit-making organizations to operate 68 study room centres in various public housing estates.
4. A sharing session was conducted between SWD and ERB's retraining course providing agencies on 9 February 1999. It proved to be a very useful forum for exchange of views, sharing of experiences, and for discussion of the special needs of the CSSA unemployed.
Refocusing of CSSA Customer Liaison Groups
5. So far, 11 out of 21 existing CSSA Customer Liaison Groups have refocused their strategy to concentrate on creating a readiness for change among able-bodied unemployed recipients, and to promote their motivation for work. Future activities will include sharing of feelings and experiences in a supportive environment, or talks by successful ex-CSSA job seekers, aiming to help sustain momentum and confidence.
6. Three small-scale pilot projects have been developed since early 1999 to:
- encourage unemployed CSSA recipients to receive retraining;
- develop their job seeking skills;
- strengthen the referral mechanism thus involved;
- create a readiness for change among the unemployed and the field staff.
7. Below is a summary of developments as at mid-March 1999:
Between NGOs and Social Security Field Units of Kowloon City district
( since 18 January 1999 )
Between ERB, YWCA, Caritas, Methodist Centre, and Social Security Field Units of Central, Western & Island district
- Proactively aiming to refer new CSSA unemployment cases to appropriate non-governmental organisations for retraining and employment-related services.
- So far, 8 out of 84 new applicants have expressed interest in this service and accepted referrals.
( since 12 February 1999 )
Between LES(LD) and Social Security Field Units of Tuen Mun district
- Actively introducing and encouraging suitable able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipients to take up the part-time hourly-paid domestic helper job vacancies in mid-levels and Pokfulam, or to receive retraining in this area of work.
- The Field Units have so far approached 43 unemployed recipients and succeeded in referring 2 of them to Caritas for employee retraining.
- More vigorous efforts will be made by the Field Unit staff, and closer links will be maintained with the training bodies in the district level.
( since 8 March 1999)
- Proactively encouraging able-bodied unemployed CSSA recipients to take up employment, particularly in jobs with a great demand for labour but also recruitment difficulties, such as elderly care and livestock farming.
- The Field Units have so far approached 9 unemployed recipients, and succeeded in referring 3 of them to LES for appropriate assistance.
Health and Welfare Bureau
Extracts from the 'Report on Review of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme'Active employment assistance
35. Staff of SSFUs will launch an Active Employment (AEA) programme to encourage and help the unemployed recipients to find work. Their role will be to act as a source of information and facilitator. Participation in the programme will replace the requirement for the unemployed CSSA applicants to register with LES of LD. LD and ERB will continue to provide job placement and retraining services for unemployed CSSA recipients who wish to regain employment through their assistance.
36. The main features of the AEA programme are as follows:
- SWD will work closely with LD and ERB to encourage and help unemployed CSSA recipients through a co-ordianted programme of counselling, employment and retraining services.
- All participants will be required to attend an initial briefing atSSFUs during which the objectives of the programme, workincentive arrangements under the CSSA Scheme, the variousways and channels to seek jobs, and employment and retraining services provided by LD and ERB will be explained fully. Job search will be further supported by provision of available vacancy information to job-seekers through a computerized system. In October 1998, the Subventions and Lotteries Fund Advisory Committee approved a Lotteries Fund grant for 41 computer terminals to be installed in non-governmental organization (NGO) premises to provide information on job vacancies for job-seekers. We intend to seek a Lotteries Fund grant to install similar terminals in all SSFUs.
- Apart from services provided by LD and ERB, participants will also be briefed on other supportive services generally available or specific to the catchment area of a particular SSFU. Some NGOs have been running programmes to provide employment-related services specifically for CSSA recipients (for example, funding support has been provided by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charitable Trust for an NGO to run a training and employment programme for CSSA single parents as from October 1998; a grant from the Lotteries Fund was approved in October 1998 for an NGO to launch a job matching programme for CSSA recipients to work as relief workers in various NGOs).
- With the help of the staff of SSFUs, participants will draw up a personalized action plan to find work and will be expected to adhere to it. Regular follow-up interviews will be arranged by SSFUs to monitor the progress of their job search and to render appropriate assistance (for example, referrals to Family Service Centres for counselling and other support services), where necessary.