Legislative Council Panel on Welfare Services

Meeting on 12 April 1999

Creation of Chief Clinical Psychologist Post in the
Social Welfare Department


This paper informs Members of the proposal to create a new permanent post in the new rank of Chief Clinical Psychologist (CCP) at Directorate level (D1) in the Social Welfare Department (SWD) to enhance professional management of the clinical psychological services which are increasingly complex and demanding.


Clinical Psychological Services in the Welfare Sector

2. Clinical Psychology specialises in the study, diagnosis and treatment of individuals with psychological problems, disorder or abnormal behaviour. Demand for clinical psychological services has experienced a rapid growth in the light of the increased need for this type of professional assistance to cope with the changing circumstances in the community. Service demand is particularly keen in the following areas :-

  1. counselling for families undergoing psychological trauma, crises or domestic violence;

  2. professional advice to SWD's Child Protection Unit in its investigation of child custody and suspected child abuse cases, especially sexual abuse cases;

  3. intervention to persons who suffer in large scale or traumatic disasters;

  4. assessment for mentally handicapped persons in giving evidence in court and leading a normal married life;

  5. professional assistance to vulnerable witnesses including child witnesses and mentally handicapped persons and giving expert evidence in court;

  6. rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped, sexual offenders, depressed elderly and clients with suicidal tendencies; and

  7. professional advice and support to residential homes for young offenders, children and youth with psychological and behavioural problems, and disabled children with special needs.

3. To cope with the growth in demand for specialised clinical psychological services, there has been a rapid expansion in the establishment of clinical psychologists (CP), both in SWD and in non -governmental organisations (NGOs). Over the past five years, the CP establishment in SWD has increased from 22 CPs in 1994-95 to 41 CPs in 1998-99. In NGOs, staffing has increased from 10 to 21 over the same period. An additional 5 CPs will be created in 1999-2000, bringing the total provision to 67 in both sectors.

4. In terms of performance indicators, in the year 1998-99 (up to end of Feb 1999), the four Clinical Psychology Units of SWD have conducted 216 intellectual assessments, 1,051 diagnostic assessments and provided counselling service to 1,859 clients. The current economic situation is likely to intensify personal and family problems, hence increasing the demand for specialised clinical psychological services. With a growing CP establishment and keen demand for clinical psychological services, there is a need to create a senior clinical psychologist post, as head of the Clinical Psychology service in SWD, to strengthen the management of the profession with a view to further improving the service. A Chief Clinical Psychologist (CCP) post, pitched at the Directorate level (D1), is, therefore, recommended for this purpose. The proposed job description of the CCP is at Annex A.

Justifications for Creation of the CCP Post

Rapid Growth in Clinical Psychological Services

5. A co-ordinator, with the necessary professional knowledge and experience, is needed to oversee the rapid development in CP services in the welfare sector. As mentioned above, CP services are required in almost every welfare programme area , e.g., family and child welfare, elderly services, services for young people and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The proposed CCP will be able to co-ordinate the increasing demand from the wide spectrum of service areas, and to ensure effective interfacing with related professionals, including social workers, police, teachers, medical and legal personnel.

Inadequacies in the existing management structure

6. The proposed CCP, reporting directly to Deputy Director (Services) in SWD's headquarters, and overseeing the four Clinical Psychology Units (CPU) in the territory, will be able to address current inadequacies in the management of the profession.

7. At present, each CPU is headed by a Senior Clinical Psychologist (SCP) in SWD's Regional Offices. The SCP, in turn, reports to the Regional Social Welfare Officer, who is a social worker by profession. At the headquarters, clinical psychological service is under the purview of Deputy Director(Services), underpinned by the Assistant Director (Family & Child Welfare). As both the Regional Social Welfare Officers, and AD(FCW) are social workers by profession, they do not possess the necessary professional skills to meet the demanding and growing requirements to assess and monitor the performance of the CP. This is a major factor hindering the further development of a quality CP service in keeping up with international standards. The proposed CCP, possessing managerial experience, professional connections, as well as expertise in the field, will be able to fully commit himself/ herself to the strategic planning and development of clinical psychological services in a changing environment. He/she will be able to strengthen support to the Deputy Director (Services) in overseeing this important and growing specialist service so as to improve the productivity and efficiency of the service delivered by the Department and NGOs.

8. The present organisation structure in SWD, as well as the proposed structure after the creation of CCP, are at Annex B and C.

Review of the existing mode of service delivery

9. Due to enhanced public awareness and expectations of the service, it is imperative to critically examine the present mode of service delivery and to develop a strategy to ensure that the service is able to meet community needs. The proposed CCP will be tasked with reviewing the present services delivery modes and to spearhead initiatives to improve service standards. Examples of areas which can be strengthened include the provision of preventive services such as stress management, competence assessment, family therapy, intervention in sexual abuse cases and the handling of large scale disasters through crisis debriefing and follow up. The CCP will also oversee the development of new treatment approaches, assess the reliability and validity of new treatment tools in keeping with local culture and advise SCPs/CPs on case handling. The CCP will also take up the co-ordinating role to establish close dialogue with the NGO sector, as well as other institutions and professionals to ensure effective interfacing to help tackle the increasingly complex problems and pressures faced by individuals and their families.

Development management and training of the CP grade

10. In the absence of any formal mechanisms to evaluate CP's professional work at present, the CCP as manager of the grade in SWD, will develop guidelines and procedures on professional practices. The proposed CCP will advise on the formulation of policies, drawing up guidelines and procedures on professional practices, and develop service standards and performance indicators, so as to strengthen the monitoring system.

11. The proposed officer will also identify training needs and map out training strategies for professional development of the CP grade. This is particularly important as most of CPs, both in the department and NGOs, have less than three years of experience given expansion in the service in recent years.


12. The additional notional annual salary cost of this proposal at mid-point is -

$No. of Post
New permanent post1,213,2001

13. The full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salary and staff on-costs, is $2,112,204.

14. In addition, this proposal will necessitate the creation of one Personal Secretary II post and a notional annual mid-point salary cost of $ 181,920 and a full annual average staff cost of $ 303,720.

15. The cost of this proposal has been included in the 1999-2000 Estimates. The Civil Service Bureau supports the creation of this new post of CCP at the rank of D1 level, having regard to the duties and responsibilities.


16. Members are invited to consider the proposed creation of a new rank of Chief Clinical Psychologist in SWD.

17. The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service as well as the Establishment Subcommittee of the Finance Committee will be consulted in due course.

Health and Welfare Bureau/ Social Welfare Department
April 1999

Duty List of Chief Clinical Psychologist (D1)

Responsible to the Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services) (D3) for the following:

  1. Formulating policies relating to the delivery of clinical psychological services to meet community needs.

  2. Examining the existing mode of service delivery and developing strategies for future improvement.

  3. Devising a code of conduct/practice for the CP grade.

  4. Managing service standards and developing special treatment approaches in the delivery of psychological service.

  5. Convening, co-ordinating and participating in committees and working groups on policy issues relating to the psychological service.

  6. Overseeing the operation of the Clinical Psychology Units of the department and ensuring uniformity in the provision of service.

  7. Managing the CP grade, and providing expert advice on the development and training of CPs in the department and NGOs.

  8. Initiating and coordinating research to improve service quality to meet the changing needs of the community.