Day-care services fall short: group

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

A social service group has called on the government to promote community networking to relieve the demand for day-care services after a survey of at-risk children found about 70 per cent had at some time been left at home unattended.

Hong Kong Christian Service, a foster-care group, interviewed 168 children, aged five to 15, between January and March about their experiences of being left at home alone in the previous six months.

They were children from families helped by Foster Care, Small Group Home and Integrated Family Services, and were described as being at high risk of being left unattended.

The survey found that three in four had been left at home unattended, with 14 per cent saying it happened frequently and more than half saying it happened often.

Older children tended to be left alone more often and for longer.

Hong Kong Christian Service principal co-ordinator Lee Yuk-ying said the figure showed that more parents were unavailable for short periods, as 30 per cent of the children said they had been left on their own for less than an hour.

Almost none said they were alone overnight.

Ms Lee called on the government to put more resources into providing parents immediate and affordable temporary childcare.

'Day-care services provided by the government are insufficient to meet the demand now, and too many parents have no knowledge about the services at all,' she said. 'The government should expand the service and promote it.'

Foster Service social worker Ip Yee-fun also called on the government to promote community networking, which encourages parents to seek help from a neighbour before they turn to day-care services.

She said the government should also allot more resources to hiring professional social workers to foster harmony in the community to ease pressure on day-care services.

The organisation said there were about 900 foster families in Hong Kong, which Ms Ip said was insufficient, leaving 107 needy children on a waiting list.