More families seek help amid downturn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 January, 2009, 12:00am

Demand for temporary care of children may increase slightly, while that for counselling has shot up as families affected by the economic downturn seek help to sort through their problems.

Director of Social Welfare Stephen Fisher said overall demand for foster care remained steady, but warned of an increase in the need for short-term care, which lasts six weeks.

But he said the department should have enough families offering foster care to cope with any sharp rise in demand.

Some 959 families had registered to offer foster care for under-18s with the Social Welfare Department as of November 25. Children have been placed with 897 families.

Mr Fisher also noted that other measures were in place to help families with financial problems.

The demand for counselling services for people affected by the crisis was greater than expected, Mr Fisher said.

More than 3,000 people have sought help from the two 24-hour hotlines set up, and social workers are following up on 650 of the inquiries.

The two counselling service centres received nearly HK$1 million in extra funding in expectation of increased demand for the service.

The department has allocated HK$970,000 to the Tung Wah Group's Cease Crisis Centre and the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre.

'The effect of the crisis will continue to affect people and we know there is a need for the service,' Mr Fisher said. 'We just hope the demand for the service will not jump up too quickly.'

The funding came on top of a government grant in October of HK$1.2 million for the two services, taking total funding to more than HK$2 million.