Children and youth are going to inherit our society, and they are the future as the social and economic development of Hong Kong will be down to their work as they grow up. The DAB feels that the government has a responsibility and mission to nurture children and provide them with a healthy and positive environment to grow up in and help them reach their potential and provide a strong basis for society in the future. Therefore, we have published our proposals to the government regarding children and youth policy in “Nurturing a new generation sound in body and mind” where we take into account the situation, structure and growth environment of the child population in Hong Kong as well as their standard of living and the stresses they face. We provide solutions to problems that young people may have to deal with and we hope that the government can improve in these areas. A list of our proposals is below.
1) Set up a Children’s Commission
Look at the currently operating Elderly Commission and how it is organized, and set up a Children’s Commission along similar lines and set up short, medium and long term plans. Unify and collect information related to children and youth as the basis of our policy, and promote the discussion and development of children’s policies within society and fulfill the responsibility of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We also propose hiring Officers for Children’s Affairs in order to facilitate the operation and enforcement of laws related to children.
2) Take care of the mental health of children and youth
In today’s Hong Kong, many young people are facing a lot of pressure related to school, and a number of parents also put undue pressure on their children for academic success. Add to this the lack of suitable ways for youth to deal with complicated interpersonal relationships and the inexorable rise in addiction to social media, the number of young patients with mental health issues such as depression continues to rise unabated. In order to stop the situation from deteriorating further, we propose that the HKSAR government should find ways to teach a positive outlook on life to the next generation. We should strengthen life education and help teach resiliency to students, improve cooperation between families and schools, and help social workers in schools broaden their guidance work for students. The Hospital Authority should increase its mental health and recovery services, while schools should emphasize the holistic development of each student and balance learning and homework more equitably. We should promote parental education and help parents to better understand and deal with the issues surrounding raising children.
3) Create a healthy environment for children to grow up in
Hong Kong is considered a first world city with good living standards. A percentage of children are showing signs of obesity, which will have an adverse effect on their health and will also have a high chance of perpetuating obesity into adulthood. We feel that the government should work with schools and the business sector to promote an environment conductive to healthy eating habits. We propose that schools must strictly enforce the guidelines from the Health Department to ensure that cafeterias and small shops in school provide healthy food and drink. When the business sector promotes products it has a social responsibility to remind consumers of the health effects that come from long-term consumption of certain food items. Some foreign countries impose a tax on sugary soft drinks to help solve the problem of obesity in their society. The government should take it as a reference.
Also, in regards to kyphosis (hunchback) and vision problems being detected at younger ages, we propose that schools should hold activities for spinal and back health annually. Teachers should combine courses spread over different times into the same time slot, and arrange for lockers in order that students can leave heavy schoolbooks at school. We should also improve the current healthcare services for students, increase the frequency of eye tests and other related issues.
4) Support the needs of children economically disadvantaged families
nowadays, the government has already provided children with basic welfare services. However, more supports should be given to the children from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds, ethnic minority backgrounds and those have being bullied.
The government should provide sufficient support for them and ensure that they will receive the suitable care they need in order that they can have the same opportunities of everyone else.
We propose that the government should improve the current system of allowances and subsidies. It should increase the upper limits for allowances to students and children and lower the bar for eligibility for the Low-income working family allowance. Increase the current upper limits for allowances for pre-school services to children with various disabilities and improve the special education training of teachers. Thoroughly research the reasons for domestic violence in Hong Kong families and improve social welfare services. Perform follow-up services for children or youth who have to regularly stay with Foster care or St. Christopher’s Home. Provide sufficient protection to children from families with history of severe domestic violence and/or severe psychological abuse. Provide support for ethnic minority children to learn Chinese and improve their prospects for a better life and help them improve their social mobility.
5) Provide more welfare services for single-parent or dual-income families.
In recent years, the typical family structure in Hong Kong underwent a major change. Small families are now the norm, and the old ideal of “three generations under one roof”is no longer regularly seen. Most parents now need to work outside the home, and childcare for young children has become a major problem for families. Currently childcare services and the supply of nannies are insufficient in many districts of Hong Kong.
We feel that the government should regularly monitor the management of childcare and afterschool programs in each district and their quotas. Then we should increase the number of services according to actual need. In order to benefit students who require afterschool activities, the government should find a way to manage afterschool programs with all elementary schools across Hong Kong. Also, the government should set up “Community Emergency Help Service” with a 24-hour hotline and help parents with urgent needs the information to access temporary childcare, emergency foster care and other similar services.