Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Education Bureau has maintained a close liaison with the school sector and implemented a number of measures to enhance early identification of and timely support for suspected victims of child abuse.
In response to a lawmaker’s question, Dr Law pointed out that since the coronavirus outbreak, the Education Bureau has required schools to remain open during class suspension or before full resumption of classes to cater for students whose families are unable to take care of them.
He noted that school social workers (SSWs) provide timely counselling to students in need through interviews or visits, in addition to keeping in contact with them via telephone calls and online.
Dr Law explained that the bureau has reminded schools and SSWs that they should constantly pay attention to students involved in cases of prolonged absence from schools, families lacking support and suspected or reported child abuse. He added that they should handle high-risk cases in accordance with established procedures.
To support children and families in need during the epidemic, Dr Law emphasised that the After School Care Programme centres for primary school students have provided non-face-to-face services through online media, mobile applications and telephone calls when the centres are not open to the public.
He further remarked that at the same time, such centres are able to offer face-to-face service to children with special needs.
Dr Law also stated that the Social Welfare Department regularly organises talks and skills training courses to strengthen the capability of front-line professionals in various aspects such as identifying suspected child abuse cases at an earlier stage, conducting risk assessment, taking child protection actions and providing post-trauma counselling.
Such front-line experts include social workers, teaching professionals, police officers, government counsels, medical professionals and healthcare personnel.