Psychological services for Hong Kong pupils probed
Ombudsman seeks public views as it investigates government follow-up
The Ombudsman is investigating whether follow-up work relating to the government’s psychological health assessment for schoolchildren is adequate and effective.
The investigation of the service involving both the Department of Health and the Education Bureau came after the official watchdog noted media reports of no follow-up action being taken for some children even though they were found to be psychologically ill by the health department’s student health service programme.
The programme was launched in 1995 to assess the physical and psychological health of primary and secondary pupils.
Some parents also complained they were not told their children’s assessment results.
According to procedures, those found to have psychological health problems are to be referred to the health department’s special assessment centres or other specialists for follow-up.
For its part, the bureau will help disseminate information about the services to schools.
“Our preliminary inquiry showed that if students were not accompanied by their parents in attending the assessments, the health department would rely on the students to report their problems to parents,” Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said.
She added that if students did not attend any assessments after enrolment, or if the cases were referred elsewhere, the department would stop following up the cases.
“If the children did not visit the referred clinics, the problem could remain and could not be handled promptly,” she said, warning that their psychological problems could deteriorate.
Lau said the two departments might be inappropriate for some parts of the process and jeopardising the programme’s efficacy.
The investigation began more than six months ago and found that existing mechanisms could be contributing to the problem.
But Lau said it was “premature” to state how long the lack of proper follow-up action had been taking place.
The public has been invited to submit views on the topic to the Ombudsman by May 10.
A department spokesman said staff at the student health service centres would review records during the next annual assessment and ask whether students attended their referral appointments.
He said the department would fully cooperate with the Ombudsman’s investigation and further improve its services.
A bureau spokesman said information about the health service was available on its website.