Battered wives call for better social services for those at risk

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 May, 2009, 12:00am

A group of battered wives has called for more specialised social services to be made available to at-risk women because they say understaffed family service centres have failed to help them secure a home away from abusive husbands.

The Social Welfare Department is to report to lawmakers today about the progress of a review of the operations of 61 family service centres.

The centres, some run by the department and others by NGOs, were set up across the city in 2005 to provide one-stop counselling and support services for families.

But Ah Ling (not her real name), a battered wife, said social workers at one centre did not tell her she was eligible for compassionate rehousing when she filed for a divorce.

The 46-year-old left the home she shared with her husband and approached a centre run by International Social Service in February for help after she had been subjected to multiple assaults over a long period by her spouse who was addicted to Ice (crystal methamphetamine).

The man had threatened her with a knife many times and tried to make her jump out of their apartment. In March, she was beaten for 15 minutes when she saw him in a street after meeting a social worker.

'I asked the worker to arrange a separate public housing unit for me but she said my case was not serious enough,' Ah Ling said. 'She only helped me cancel my name on the tenancy agreement for their public housing unit, and then told me to get a subsidy and rent a place of about 100 square feet.'

But Housing Authority officers told her she had to join a queue.

She now lives in a shelter run by the Association for the Survivors of Women Abuse (Kwan Fook) while waiting for public housing.

Liu Ngan-fung, of Kwan Fook, said battered wives needed special care from the department's Family and Child Protective Services Unit instead of the family service centres. But the unit would not take cases unless they involved serious injuries, she said.

They should be equipped with more staff to handle more families so tragedies could be prevented.

At least five cases handled by the family centres have ended in deaths over the past five years, she said. 'Social workers there are overloaded with cases and they are often less seasoned than specialists at the units.'