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This page is updated on 2006-07-27 12:04
Christian Service News

Issue 49 (October 2005)

Opinion Feedback
Lessons Learnt from Tin Shui Wai Tragedy

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 Court.

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.

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