Immigration office seeks to hire its first clinical psychologist

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2007, 12:00am

The Immigration Department hopes to hire its first clinical psychologist soon to take care of the mental health of more than 6,500 workers.

A recruitment notice was published in the Classified Post on September 29 seeking a psychologist for a contract that will pay HK$34,895 a month. Among the services to be provided are post-trauma counselling, psycho-educational programmes and lectures on stress management.

Other duties will include conducting research and assisting management in running mental health programmes for nearly 5,000 service staff and 1,600 civilians.

An official for the immigration officers' union welcomed the move, citing mounting pressure on frontline staff because the number of visitors has surged in recent years.

Department figures revealed the number of visitors last year was doubled the number in 1996, but the number of staff had increased by only 6 per cent in that period.

'And our officers are now required to handle different kinds of job duties such as bogus marriage investigations,' said Wong Tong-sing, chairman of the Immigration Department Staff Association.

He said recruiting a psychologist would serve as a preventive measure and be beneficial to officers who are under pressure from work or family.

A department spokesman confirmed the clinical psychologist would be its first.

James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council security panel, said the recruitment could come under the department's budget to respond to officers' pressure in control points.

The police force employs five clinical psychologists for 27,000 officers, but a union spokesman said five was far from enough.

Senior police are allowed to direct officers to seek help, but it is usually a voluntary exercise, except for officers involved in shootings, who must attend a post-shooting interview with a police psychologist. Junior Police Officers' Association chairman Chung Kam-wah said frontline officers faced mounting pressure because of a reduction in manpower caused by budget cuts.

He added the decision to exclude junior police officers from the requirement of five-day work weeks would affect morale and mental health.

Fire Services Department Staffs General Association chairman Yuen Fong-him said the department had no clinical psychologists employed to serve firefighters but 'it would be better if we had professionals to provide counselling services'.

Seeking help

Some 193 police officers sought counselling in 2005

The number of police officers who sought counselling last year rose to 206