The Social Welfare Department has been accused of keeping the emergency phone numbers for their domestic-violence outreach team hidden from those in need. The accusation came from a domestic-abuse help group, which said even police had been unable to get in touch with the department's social workers to deal with a recent urgent complaint. Liu Ngan-fung, chairwoman of the Association for Survivors of Women Abuse, said the group had asked the department for the phone numbers because it and similar organisations often received calls from people in crisis, but had received a flat refusal. The department said last night that the public could get in touch with social workers any time by calling the 24-hour Caritas crisis hotline, and leaving a message if the line was busy. The hotline, 18288, was set up in 2001 with government funding in the face of surging domestic violence and emotional problems. Social workers manning the phones - two during daytime and up to four at night - can contact members of the outreach team by mobile phone or pager. The department said earlier this year that the hotline workers or the police would contact team members if they thought the cases needed immediate assistance. Ms Liu said this implied that the police would have the team's numbers at their disposal. But two officers on duty on Sunday at the report room in Sham Shui Po police station said they could not find the numbers when she called them about a seven-year-old boy who had been left alone at home for two days. 'If the victims couldn't find social workers through the police or the hotline - and we found that the police in Sham Shui Po really couldn't - then they would only call the NGOs,' she said. 'It's not like we don't want to help, but the responsibility should never fall onto us in the first place. 'And if the NGOs want to find the outreach team, we can't because we don't have their numbers. Why can't they at least give us the numbers - I think this shows a serious trust problem of the department towards the NGOs.' A Social Welfare Department spokeswoman said last night that the police would be able to get in touch with the department for any urgent help 'in any circumstances'.