I AM most encouraged by the responses I have had, both public and private, to my suggestion that more counselling services be made available for married couples contemplating divorce.
A number of organisations have, on this letters page, offered their help to such couples, including the Marriage and Personal Counselling Service, the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and the counselling service at St John's Cathedral.
There will always be occasions when the marriage relationship is irretrievable and divorce then becomes the best available option.
However we must ensure that every encouragement is given to all married couples to communicate more effectively with each other, in good times and in bad, especially in this International Year of the Family. Thereby we can preserve marriage. This should be the Government's primary concern.
Family services provided directly by the Social Welfare Department and also by subvented non-governmental organisations preserve and strengthen the family unit through helping individuals and families to solve their problems or to avoid them altogether.
If problems have already developed to an extent where our customers cannot cope we provide assistance and practical support during the crisis period.
This is done by experienced caseworkers at the department's network of 30 family services centres and the subvented non-governmental organistions' 23 such centres.
The department's Child Custody Services Unit will look at the paramount interest of a child who will be affected by the judicial separation or divorce of his parents.
Where appropriate the services of the department's clinical psychologist will be called upon to provide counselling for the child concerned. Of course, preventing family crises is a major concern of the department.
We subvent organisations which provide over 60 trained social workers whose full-time job is family life education.
The department also runs a Family Life Education resource centre with books, videos and other teaching materials.
This service is available for staff of any groups engaged in preserving family life and our centre can be contacted at the 24th floor of Southern Centre in Wan Chai (Telephone, 835 1948).
IAN STRACHAN Director of Social Welfare