Hundreds of jobs at youth and child centres may be cut to free resources to hire more than 150 school social workers pledged in a long-delayed scheme. About $90 million a year has to be found to provide 152 secondary schools with social workers and other support staff in the next academic year. The scheme, supported by the education and welfare sectors since the 1980s, is expected to be officially endorsed by Tung Chee-hwa in his Policy Address today. Cheung Kwok-che, president of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, estimated that up to 400 staff, including social workers and clerical staff at child and youth centres, faced possible redundancy. He said redundant workers could not be redeployed to schools as they lacked the necessary qualifications. 'The Social Welfare Department's objective is to pull the $600,000 [needed for one school] out to make way for the scheme since it has no new resources,' Mr Cheung said. He said the child and youth centres had become easy targets because of a low rate of patronage in some districts as they lacked adequate facilities and activities. 'There should be more centres in new towns such as Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai,' he said. 'It depends on whether the Government is to improve the centres according to the youth profile in different districts. 'Some centres are running cafes, providing Internet access and studios for audio-visual production to keep the young people in,' Mr Cheung said. Tik Chi-yuen, chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation, said he hoped the Government would opt for natural wastage rather than compulsory redundancy. A review released this year confirmed the need for one social worker for each school. Only schools with low academic achievements were given social workers - about 153 schools so far. The rest - more than 200 schools - have social workers on a rotational basis. The Social Welfare Department said welfare groups would redeploy staff affected by the scheme internally. But a department spokesman declined to say what would happen if there were no jobs available. 'It's too early to say. The scheme is still a year away. But a general principle we follow is to minimise its impact on these workers.'