Have one hotline to end confusion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 May, 1995, 12:00am

HONG KONG should have a centralised youth hotline service to avoid the confusion caused by too many lines, says a youth expert.

Commission on Youth chairman Eric Li Ka-cheung said 'snarling up' of this kind was best avoided to ensure a more efficient distribution of hotline resources.

'There are two problems with having too many hotlines,' Mr Li said. 'Firstly, human and other resources shouldn't be spread too thinly over so many hotlines, some of which aren't doing too well either. Maximum use of these resources could be made if they all served just one hotline.

'The second problem is the inconvenience. The callers, most of whom are students, would find it a lot easier to remember one hotline rather than having to choose from around 20.' Mr Li said it cost 'several millions' to operate a single hotline, and discussions were underway among the authorities concerned to draw up a plan for a centralised hotline.

'The Government is very concerned about this move, and is ready to provide the equipment for the service. The only difficulty is deciding on the salaries for the staff who'll manage the hotline.' According to Radio 2 Youth Hotline producer Tai Keen-man, who is also head of RTHK's public affairs unit (radio), there are 'no less than 20 youth hotlines in Hong Kong', each doing its own promotion work. The result is great confusion among students.

Mr Tai said young people were naturally more willing to share their feelings about family, school, peers and dating over a hotline than with their parents.

Since setting up Youth Hotline in May 1993, the show has received more than 3,600 calls. About 45 per cent of the callers are students aged between 16 and 20.

School is the most frequent topic brought up.

'Some want to talk about school management, regulations, teaching and teacher attitudes. Some have even been on drugs when they called, and the social workers on the show have to decide whether to take immediate action.' In extreme cases, the police were summoned to help.

Over the past two years, several youth hotlines have been started up, and increasing numbers of students are calling to discuss personal matters or problems.

Anthony Chan Wai-kwan, acting deputy director of the Social Welfare Department, said the existence of hotlines gave students the courage to call in, especially when they saw fellow students turning to the service for help.

'They realise they aren't the only ones with problems.' Youth Hotline (2187-2388) receives calls every Saturday and Sunday from eight to 11 in the evening, but the programme itself is broadcast from 10 pm to 11 pm.