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An Overview of Social Services in Hong Kong
The work and contribution of social service organizations responding to social needs

According to various issues of the Directory of Social Service Organizations in Hong Kong published in past years, the number of social service organizations continued to increase. The number increased from 337 in 2002 to 564 in 2015, with a percentage increase of 67%. Social service organizations promote social cohesion and mobilize community resources. With their professional knowledge, the organizations continue to provide innovative services to meet the society's changing needs.

Social service organizations are committed to serve the public

The number of social service organizations has been increasing, with different scales, districts and scopes of service. Each agency is committed to serve the public with its own vision and mission. Some of the social service organizations are sizable with a long history, and employ more than a thousand employees to offer diversified social service. On the other hand, many newly established medium-sized and small-sized agencies provide specialized and innovative services to specific target groups and locations.

The scope of services of the agencies is broad. Apart from those agencies which provide direct services, some of them are involved in environmental protection and sustainable development while others promote public health. Besides, some agencies focus on advocacy, public education in connection with disadvantaged groups or social justice. There are also foundations which provide funding for innovative services. Others include professional associations, training institutes of social workers, self-help groups of the aged, people with disabilities or chronic illness, single parents and their relatives. They support each other, advocate for enhancement of services and policies, and promote community education and social inclusion. Different agencies contribute themselves to social development with the application of their own professional knowledge and expertise, which make the social welfare sector more diversified and vibrant in Hong Kong.

Regarding the annual recurrent expenditures of the Agency Members of HKCSS, as at October 2015, 75 (17%) agencies had an expenditure of over HK$ 50 million, 89 (20%) ranged between HK$ 10 million and HK$ 50 million, 42 (10%) between HK$ 5 million and HK$ 10 million. Moreover, 101 (23%) spent between HK$ 1.5 million and HK$ 5 million per year, while 133 (30%) less than HK$ 1.5 million.

Multi-disciplinary professional team

Social service organizations employ different professionals to provide a wide range of professional services. At present, there are close to 60,000 employees in the social service, including more than 8,000 social workers, 2,400 enrolled and registered nurses. Agencies also employ over 2,500 child care workers, a total of about 1,200 physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists, and also clinical psychologists, educational psychologists and doctors, in order to provide multi-disciplinary services to the public.

Mobilizing community power and resources

During 2013/2014, apart from receiving HK$10.1 billion subvention from the Social Welfare Department, social service organizations also received a total of HK$1.32 billion from various government departments and Government administered funds. Besides, agencies raised fund from the community, including HK$ 380 million from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and The Community Chest as well as HK$11.73 billion from private donations, fund-raising activities, social enterprises, services fees and other contributions from the community.

Community resources mobilized by social service organizations grew rapidly (increased by 40% when compared with the figure in 2009), which shows that social service organizations are trusted and supported by the public and the business sector.

In addition to the close collaboration with the Social Welfare Department, social service organizations also work with different government departments to provide a diversified range of welfare, health, education, poverty, environmental protection and employment services to the public. On the other hand, many agencies do not receive any regular subvention from the government. They rely on their own network and community resources to develop and initiate district-based and pioneer services. In view of the growth of funding size and the fact that more than half of the funding were raised from community resources, it is evident that social service organizations are trusted and supported by the general public and the business sector.

Nevertheless, while maintaining partnership with the government, there should also be a clear division of labor. The role and responsibility of the government in taking care of the general public is indispensable, and public resources must be sufficient for the provision of core and mainstream services. Funds raised by the agencies, should be spent on services which are not subsidized by the government as well as pioneer projects.

Active Promulgation of Volunteer Spirit

Social service organizations have mobilized huge human resources in the community. According to The Directory of Social Service Organizations in Hong Kong 2016, 746,000 people have participated in volunteer service, increased by 42.4% since 2009. Moreover, a total of 16.987 million volunteer service hours were recorded.

The time spent by volunteers is one of the major driving forces of social services, which is particularly crucial for small-sized agencies. The social welfare sector will focus on the further development of voluntary services, including the recruitment of volunteers with different backgrounds, knowledge and skills through social media. Social service organizations have made an important contribution in facilitating social cohesiveness and the promulgation of volunteer spirit, making Hong Kong a benevolent city.

Different professionals serving in the Board of Directors of agencies

There are currently more than 5,000 members in the Board of Directors of the agencies, which represented an increase of 25.9% comparing with 2009 showing an upward trend. They come from different sectors of the society, including lawyers, accountants, doctors, architects, professionals in human resources management and university professors. There are also community leaders from the financial and business sectors. Without any monetary return, they devote themselves to the development of the agencies in order to promote social welfare in Hong Kong. Following the continuous discussions on the proposed charity law and the requirements of the Companies Ordinance, there is a greater expectation on the corporate governance of agencies. The Council is committed to the enhancement of the governance, and the provision of a platform for exchanges and mutual learning among board members.

Wide variety and nature of services

Social service organizations provide a diversified portfolio of social welfare services. Apart from various types of social welfare services, agencies cooperate with other sectors to provide employees retraining programmes, food banks, urban re-development social work services and social enterprises. At present, social service organizations provide 90% of social service in Hong Kong, which benefit more than six million people.

There have been over 250 million beneficiaries, including children, youths, women, adults, senior citizens, people with disabilities or chronic illness, those having difficulties in employment, new arrivals, ethnic minorities, low-income families and Comprehensive Social Security Assistant Scheme (CSSA) recipients, etc. The wide variety and nature of services cover all strata of citizens.