Health and social welfare officials said yesterday they would proceed with plans to invite tenders for a controversial 24-hour crisis centre for the victims of family violence and sexual assault. 'We will release our tender document [this month] and NGOs can write proposals for our selection,' Fung Pak-yan, assistant director (development) at the Social Welfare Department told a Legislative Council subcommittee. Mr Fung appeared to disregard legislators' and social groups' warnings that the proposal was dangerous. The department intends setting up one centre as a shelter for all victims of family violence and sexual assault, regardless of sex and age. The centre will accommodate not only victims of sexual violence but also battered spouses, the elderly and children. The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau told Legco's subcommittee on strategy and measures to tackle family violence that the centre could be set up in the New Territories West. A 24-hour hotline would refer cases to the Social Welfare Department's 12 family service centres during office hours, while the centre's own staff would deal with victims at night. Mr Fung told legislators that he expected the hotline would start operating early next year, followed by the shelter a few months later. The move has outraged lawmakers and social workers, with the former successfully passing a motion to reject it, and the latter asking all non-government organisations to boycott the proposal by not bidding for the tender. Social workers say sex-abuse victims would feel threatened by mixing with other people and that staff working at the proposed centre risked being harmed. 'The project treats all victims like guinea pigs by putting them all in one place. It is very dangerous for the victims,' said Ng Wai-ching, co-ordinator for the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, which runs Rainlily, a one-stop service for the victims of sexual abuse. The government has refused to back down. 'We have already made a decision on our policy,' said Hinny Lam Suk-yee, principal assistant secretary for health, welfare and food.