'Many have moved to other jobs. I feel very sad'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2007, 12:00am

During her 19 years as a social worker, Lo Kit-lin says conditions have never been worse.

She was one of 17 staff from her youth centre who took part in the collective leave action yesterday, hoping that the display of people power would bring changes.

Fewer than 15 staff remained at Kwun Tong Methodist Social Services, where a notice was put up warning clients that services could be affected by the action.

Volunteer service activities were suspended, as were counselling and outreach services.

Sitting in her quiet office just before leaving to join the protest, Ms Lo hoped it could bring about changes to an unfair funding system.

The youth services supervisor said she was a victim of massive cuts imposed by the lump-sum grant system, which had resulted in pay freezes and reductions in recent years. In April, her pay was cut by more than HK$10,000 to HK$33,355 a month.

'My organisation won't have resources to increase my salary, and they gave us a one-off payment of several thousand dollars as compensation.'

She said some of her colleagues were struggling to pay their mortgages, but she was also saddened by the sight of so many social workers leaving.

'The young social workers don't see a future, and many have moved to other jobs. I feel very sad.'

Maggie Chan Mei-kit, director of social work services at Caritas Hong Kong, said 1,100 social workers quit last year. And Susan Wong Chan Chin-yee, regional supervisor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Sha Tin Integrated Elderly Service, said that with the reduced funding, groups had been unable to hire more social workers, despite an increase in needy people during the economic downturn.

Ms Wong said one social worker used to handle 100 elderly people. Now, each one had to care for 250 people, many of whom had depression, mental illnesses or suffered from domestic abuse.