Social workers and activists are calling for renewed efforts to tackle child abuse after the number of cases hit a 14-year high last year. They are alarmed by the latest data from the Social Welfare Department showing its Child Protection Registry recorded 1,064 new cases in 2018, up from 947 in 2017. It is the first time the figure has exceeded 1,000 since 2010. Maggie Wong Kit-yui, from NGO Caritas, who is a supervisor of social workers at primary schools, said the rise was linked to greater awareness of the problem and the reporting channels available to teachers. A spate of suspected abuse cases dominated headlines in January last year, including the tragic death of Chan Sui-lam, a five-year-old girl who was repeatedly thrown at a ceiling and poked in the chest with scissors. The government has organised seminars to train kindergarten and primary school teachers on how to deal with suspected cases. This month a pilot scheme began placing social workers in more than 700 subsidised childcare centres and kindergartens, in phases. But Wong said the 1,064 figure was worrying. “I am seeing more cases of abuse as pressure increases on parents to juggle childcare, finances, work and their children’s homework,” she said. “There are also more children with special educational needs now.” Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights, said research had shown that for every reported child abuse case, 99 went unreported. Of last year’s 1,064 cases, 493 were physical, 237 involved neglect, 297 were sexual, and 11 were classed as psychological. The remainder were a mixture. A parent was the abuser in 64.5 per cent of cases – the highest figure since 2008. Autistic children picked on or told off in public, parents say Yuen Long, Kwun Tong and Tuen Mun were the black spots, recording 127, 126 and 84 cases respectively. Billy Wong said she hoped the government would provide concrete details in the 2019-20 budget on Wednesday of the work being carried out by the city’s Commission on Children. The body, led by Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, was set up in June last year after years of campaigning by child welfare activists. It has been tasked with developing policies to help children with special educational needs, from ethnic minorities, suffering with health problems, and others at risk. Children are relatively disadvantaged in that they are young and cannot protect themselves, so I hope the commission will take more action Maggie Wong, Caritas So far its members have met three times and commissioned a study by a consultancy on a proposal to set up a central database of at-risk children, as well as a funding scheme for their well-being and development. “I hope ... the amount [of resources] to be put into the commission will be comparable to other commissions,” Billy Wong said. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her policy speech in October that the government would allocate additional resources to the commission, but did not specify the amount. In last year’s budget she announced HK$1 billion to support the work of the city’s Youth Development Commission, a high-level advisory body established in April 2018. Social worker Wong said she had not heard much about what the Commission on Children was doing. “Children are relatively disadvantaged in that they are young and cannot protect themselves, so I hope the commission will take more action,” she said.