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Christian Service News

Issue 58 (January 2008)

Opinion Feedback

Neighbourhood Support Network with Social Wrokers in Tin Shui Wai is Vital

A series of family tragedies have drawn wide attention and concern to Tin Shui Wai, which is now often referred to as the "troubled district". It is recognized that, as a result of deficient community planning in the past, the district is populated with a high proportion of deprived and at-risk families. The government is urged to rectify the situation by all means. In response to the call, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, claimed that the government would actively employ different measures to alleviate the problem. One major direction is to strengthen the local neighbourhood network by enhancing the function of the local mutual aid committees.

We strongly support Mr Cheung's view that mutual support network at the neighbourhood level is an effective way to strengthen family resilience. In fact, Hong Kong Christian Service has initiated the first community- networking project in Tin Shui Wai as early as September 2005. With the funding support of Community Chest, our Tin Heng Community Networking Project is serving the biggest public housing estate in the northern part of Tin Shui Wai. It provides locality-based social services with the ultimate aim to develop mutual support networks among the residents and establish a caring community.

In the past two years, Tin Heng Community Networking Project has successfully networked more than 2,300 individual members from 700 families, which amounts to 12% of the total number of households residing in the estate. 4 volunteer groups and 3 mutual support networks have been set up. An intensive home visiting scheme for providing support to deprived families is in the process. With the snowballing effect of networking, we can see that mutual help behaviours among the residents are increasing. Families with hidden problems are also identified and motivated to seek support from the community.

Based on our networking experience in Tin Shui Wai, we urge the Labour and Welfare Bureau to consider the significant role of professional social workers in the development of neighbourhood support networks.

We have the following standpoints:

  1. Building neighbourhood support networks is an effective strategy to early identify at-risk families and strengthen community resilience.
  2. For effective neighbourhood networking, the population as well as the geographical boundary of the community should be confined to a reasonable size, say, a single public housing estate.
  3. Networking is a process-oriented methodology, which takes time to effect impact and change. Therefore, a newly launched community-networking project should be allowed at least 3 years to carry out its intervention.
  4. Social workers are professionally trained community workers. They are equipped with knowledge and skills for networking and enhancement of self-help and mutual help. With their involvement, other community bodies, including mutual aid committees, can be allied together to work for the common goal of community networking in a strategic and systematic way.
  5. The presence of social workers in a community-networking project is also important in the aspect of providing easily accessible social work service for families which need immediate professional assistance.
  6. A community-networking project located in a small community can partner with the district's integrated family service centre to serve families in crisis. The former helps to network neighbour support to the families while the latter is responsible for the provision of intensive therapeutic service.