The Coroner's Court has
announced the verdict of the Tin Shui Wai tragedy.
This tragedy not only arouses public concern over
the conduct and competence of the professionals
who handle domestic cases, it also exposes the
shortcomings of our culture and approach in dealing
with domestic violence. Aside from the need to
handle the performance of the social workers and
police officers in question seriously, finding
ways to prevent the collapse of the social welfare
system is also of utmost importance.
Since 2000, government subsidy to social welfare
has been decreasing alongside with the overall
decline in the fiscal budget. Because the Social
Welfare Department focuses too much on the ability
to streamline workflow and maintain high output
in evaluating the performance of the subsidised
social service organisations, non-governmental
entities are finding it more difficult to hire
experienced front-line social workers. In fact,
social workers are often too busy to follow up
each case even when they are willing to do so.
The Tin Shui Wai tragedy shows that family services
are over-loaded and under-funded. It has a long
way to go to achieve the 24-hour seamless mode
of social services required to prevent and resolve
domestic violence as recommended by the Coroner's
One of the lessons learnt from the Tin Shui Wai
tragedy is that we should establish a zero-tolerance
policy against violence, draft up comprehensive
laws and set up a support mechanism for providing
family services. By doing so the Police will be
able to quickly intervene in domestic violence
cases and proactively investigate into the matter,
bringing proof and lodging charges. This could
prevent violence from happening and ensure the
safety of the victims. Social workers should be
responsible for assessing the risks of the victims,
drawing up safety plans, providing counselling
services and emotional support to the affected
family members, and referring the cases to the
relevant social service departments. The Government
should provide more resources for the Social Welfare
Department and Police to set up an inter-departmental
24-hour Domestic Violence Crisis Team to handle
all new cases of domestic violence and ensure
the safety of victims, before referring the cases
to other services providers for long-term follow-up.
As social problems are becoming more complicated,
it is imperative that social workers continuously
keep themselves up-to-date with the latest professional
knowledge in delivering and supervising services.
The Tin Shui Wai incident shows that the profession
has spent too much time on finger pointing. The
goal of all professionals constructively co-operating
with each other is something to be desired.
But we should not rely solely on the professionals.
We should explore the potential of building up
good neighbourhood networks in the communities.
The aim is to identify domestic violence and intervene
before it happens or worsens. The Home Affairs
Bureau and Social Welfare Department could do
more in this matter.
We need to let the public see our committed dedication
and the noticeable changes that we bring about.
This is not only a decisive factor determining
whether the society trusts and approves our profession,
it actually defines the purpose of our existence:
to provide effective services to people in need
so that they can live in peace and happiness.