Govt to review residential child care by September

Welfare minister Law Chi-kwong on Friday said the government expects to complete its review of residential child care services in September, following alleged abuse at a foster home in Prince Edward.

The government said manpower arrangements, staff training and internal monitoring mechanisms will all be examined by a review committee chaired by the director of social welfare.

Speaking at a Legco panel meeting, Law said the committee should also complete the second phase of the review on other child care services, including foster services, in March 2023.

In the meantime, the minister said, children’s residential facilities are required to install security cameras, and government officers will check the footage on a random basis.

“We did not require any CCTV, but because of the Children’s Residential Home incident we have mandated the children residential facilities to install CCTV if they haven’t done so,” he said.

“Previously… when there were complaints we would review the footage. Obviously, it is felt this is not adequate and we should at least conduct spot checks to achieve a deterrent effect. This is what we have to do immediately.”

More than 30 staff members of the Children’s Residential Home have been arrested since late December over alleged negligence or abuse.

Law was asked by the FTU’s Bill Tang if the authorities will stop subsidising the home.

In response, Law said it’s more important to consider the best interests of the children than punishing the organisation, adding that it’s extremely hard to cancel the services when there are not adequate alternative options.

He said the government will identify suitable premises to set up a new residential child care centre that may be run by new operators.

Law also said legislative work on a mandatory reporting mechanism for child abuse is now in full swing and the administration aims to introduce the bill to Legco in the first half of 2023.