SOCIAL workers, police and psychologists are to receive intensive training from overseas experts on dealing with sexually abused children. The move follows an increase in reported cases of child sexual abuse from 54 to 73 in the year to last September. Assistant Director of Social Welfare Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu said more people were now willing to come forward. But she said further publicity was required because Hong Kong people were not used to airing personal problems. Three experts from England will next month give up to 30 social workers, police and psychologists specialist training in counselling victims and helping them through court procedures. The Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill and the Evidence (Amendment) Bill, tabled in the Legislative Council last month, will enable vulnerable victims - the mentally handicapped, children under 14, or those under 17 in the case of sexual offences - to give evidence via a live television link or by recorded interviews. A similar course was run in March but Mrs Chu said further training was essential because many Hong Kong experts were not familiar with sex abuse cases. She said a newly launched hotline service could also offer help to those who needed immediate counselling or other services. The computer-aided service has answered 20,153 inquiries since its inception last month. There were 33,000 calls for help last year. The round-the-clock hotline provides information on social security, family problems, elderly and rehabilitation services and fund-raising. Callers can opt for a direct talk with one of the four duty social workers from 9 am to 10 pm from Monday to Saturday, and 1 pm to 10 pm during weekends and holidays. Social workers receiving calls from psychologically disturbed or distressed people will refer those cases to a psychiatrist or the police. Of the calls received so far, 2,922 concerned family problems, with social security coming second with 2,736. The possibility of expanding the existing eight phone lines to a maximum of 48 depended on the demand, Mrs Chu said. The hotline number is 2343 2255.