The more complex community life becomes, the greater the need for skilled, professional social workers AN ORIENTATION evening for postgraduate programmes offered by the department of social work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong will be held on January 24. The department offers six postgraduate programmes, from a diploma in social work (clinical practice) to master's, MPhil and PhD programmes in various disciplines. Family counselling and education and social service management were two key areas that would require more skilled professionals in the next few years, said Ngai Ngan-pun, professor and head of the graduate division in the social work department. Professor Ngai said various social situations and trends had increased the need for professionals. These trends included the weakening of traditional family functions, an increase in the number of extramarital affairs and single parenthood. Complex issues such as sexual assault, child abuse and suicide also demanded professional attention. In addition, budget cuts in social welfare and the government's Enhanced Productivity Programme and Lump Sum Grant had become important issues for social workers and agency administrators. 'They have to enhance their capacity and competence in managing their agencies efficiently and effectively so as to provide the best social services with limited resources,' Professor Ngai said. Two of the department's programmes specialise in equipping professionals with the skills required to face these challenges. The Master of Arts in Family Counselling and Family Education incorporates theoretical concepts with practice. First-year modules include the family in a changing society, community-based family service and practice, and mental health and mental disorders. The second year of the programme takes a more practical approach and includes group work practice with families, family counselling and seminars on a range of topics. The programme, along with the Master of Social Science in Social Work is one of the most popular offered by the department. Professor Ngai attributes the success of these programmes to reputation, the quality of lecturers and the curriculum, as well as 'excellent training facilities and equipment'. The MA in Social Service Management is designed to equip graduates with a good knowledge of social service management theories and practice in areas such as strategic planning, resource allocation, staffing and the use of information technology in the field. The programme consisted of eight courses, including macro-social work practice (strategic planning) and human resource development in social services in the first year; and budgeting and financial planning in social service organisations and the use of information technology in social services in the second year. The tuition fee for the part-time programme is $35,000 a year. For more details about the orientation evening, call 26097556.