'Elite' unit handling domestic violence, at-risk families face high stress: union

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2008, 12:00am

The 156 social workers who handle domestic violence are regarded as the elite of the Social Welfare Department, but the level of their work stress is also the highest.

Most members of the family and child protective services unit have more than 10 and even 20 years' experience. Their daily tasks include counselling children physically or mentally abused by parents, battered wives seeking refuge, and families with problems ranging from suicide, divorce, and domestic violence to drug abuse.

Apart from their day duties, they have to handle emergencies at odd hours. The chairman of the department's union for social workers, Sam Leung Kin-hung, said the government had not been putting enough into the unit, which was helping families at highest risk.

'These social workers are under great stress and the morale is poor, but the government is turning a blind eye to it,' Mr Leung said.

The president of the Social Workers' General Union, Peter Cheung Kwok-che, said the unit's current caseload - 51 cases to each worker - was unacceptable. 'And don't forget, these are all very difficult cases.'