Govt urged to add laymen to social worker body

Lawmakers have called on the government to introduce more lay members into the Social Workers Registration Board so it can no longer “shelter social workers who are convicted of crimes”.

The legislators were speaking on Monday as officials briefed them on a proposal to strike off social workers if they’re convicted of national security offences, including those under the national security law and the Crimes Ordinance.

Those convicted of such crimes would be deregistered unless members of the Social Workers Registration Board unanimously decided otherwise.

Legislators expressed support for the plan, but some, like the DAB’s Leung Che-cheung, said the board’s composition should also be changed.

“Over half of the board members are now elected from among registered social workers. Can we reduce that to less than half?” he suggested.

“Professional autonomy doesn’t mean there should be more board members. We have seen examples in the past: even though certain social workers were convicted of crimes, they didn’t receive any punishment. They didn’t even get a one or two-month suspension. I think it gives people an impression that there were secret dealings involved,” Leung said.

In response, Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong noted that only 8 of the 15 board members are elected – the lowest proportion among self-regulated professions.

He said the government would amend the relevant ordinance if needed, but said officials need to conduct consultations and consider the administration’s overall policies regarding professional autonomy.

Law said, however, that officials plan to include more lay members among the government appointees on the board, when the current board’s tenure ends in January next year.