Pledge on families a step forward

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 June, 1993, 12:00am

I AM sure that anyone with the interests of families at heart will have been impressed to read the published speech of Ian Strachan, Director of Social Welfare (South China Morning Post, May 21), which highlights reasons why we need a Family Policy and a Programme Plan for family services in Hongkong.

In his speech Mr Strachan clearly indicates the many problems faced by families in Hongkong and the present inadequacies of family services to deal with them.

More positively he has also clearly illustrated the interlinking relationship of a range of preventive and remedial services, family service centres, family life education, family aid, home help and the importance of a new concept in informal ''drop-in''facilities in family service in this proposed revitalised and concentrated effort to help families. Perhaps uniquely for a Director of Social Welfare in this past decade he promised to do something dramatic about the woeful standards for caseloads in family service centres. The latter has been a major factor in the sapping of energy and morale in the service.

With the existing large surplus of social work degree holders, the 1981 commitment to reduce family service ''caseloads'' to 50 cases should now soon be realised. A concrete plan to achieve this by 2001, the 20th Anniversary of the commitment might now be acceptable, and certainly achievable. Having more clinical psychologists, senior social work practitioners and therapeutic groupwork within the family service network will make a significant impact on the approach to handling family tragedies, child abuse, youth suicide etc.

The plans for more child minding provision and the emphasis on a move from institutional to family care for children, show that a combination of expert knowledge and flexibility can lead to early protection for children and more appropriate services. Working closely together the integrated family services mentioned, and further developed child care services, can resolve or minimise many of the problems of families and their children and provide opportunities to prevent many of them arising.

It is now important that the Social Welfare Department shares this concept fully with the non-government sector, with agencies such as the Hongkong Family Welfare Society which operates the 25 non-government family counselling service units, so that we can together forge a greater partnership in districts in this ''ambitious plan of action'' set out in Mr Strachan's encouraging speech. This could set the tone in Hongkong for the celebration of the Decade of the Family from 1994.

THOMAS J. MULVEY Director Hongkong Family Welfare Society