HK society should take better care of vulnerable individuals

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HK society should take better care of vulnerable individuals

By Lau Kin-shing

The recent heartbreaking case of two intellectually disabled brothers who starved to death at Sau Mau Ping Estate’s Sau Wai House brought the issue of hidden vulnerable individuals into the spotlight. This tragic incident revealed the risks that such individuals face in Hong Kong.

The two deceased brothers in this case had been living with their elderly mother, who is approximately 70 years old and suffers from cognitive impairment. One can only imagine the immense challenges they faced in their daily lives. Sadly, their elderly mother was hospitalized in May due to a Candida infection, and she had not been discharged when the tragic incident occurred. The two brothers were left to fend for themselves, and it was only when the building’s security personnel detected a foul odor during their rounds that they alerted the authorities. It is suspected that, because of their inability to care for themselves and the absence of caregivers, the brothers starved to death after a prolonged period of isolation.

The family concerned was receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). The relevant government agencies, being fully aware of the family’s situation, should have taken a more proactive approach to understanding the family’s needs. Learning a lesson from this tragic incident, the relevant government agency should enhance the CSSA program by introducing mechanisms to ensure that those in need receive prompt support.

The Hospital Authority should improve its sensitivity, particularly toward elderly patients and special-needs families. When a family member is hospitalized, healthcare institutions should assess their family background and provide appropriate support. Furthermore, if patients discontinue medical checkups, hospitals should follow up to understand the reasons and ensure their healthcare needs are met.

In this incident, relatives attempted to visit the family but were turned away. This highlights the importance of community care. Society should emphasize the spirit of mutual assistance among neighbors. When individuals identify someone in need of help, they should demonstrate increased concern and offer help. The government can promote awareness of such situations through education and public awareness campaigns, encouraging people to get involved.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government established District Service and Caring Teams (Caring Teams) throughout the 18 districts last year. The primary purpose of these teams is to consolidate community resources and efforts to support government district work and strengthen community networks.

Caring Teams visit those in need, and assist in handling emergencies and unforeseen incidents. With regard to individuals residing in their homes who require assistance, Caring Teams can play a significant role. I believe that Caring Team members, driven by their knowledge of the community and their dedication to service, would be willing to do more. However, such efforts require the support and cooperation of various sectors of society.

It may be beneficial for Caring Teams to maintain close contact with the Social Welfare Department to identify areas where they can complement each other and identify the needs of vulnerable individuals as early as possible. On the other hand, the District Officer in his/her role as future District Council chairperson, can also lead efforts to strengthen home visits conducted by the district council.

The goal is to extend assistance when necessary and prevent tragedies such as the starvation of intellectually disabled individuals in their homes from being repeated. Furthermore, residents should be encouraged to report potential vulnerable individuals to these teams. This would help prevent similar tragedies by facilitating timely assistance.

The government should consider allocating additional resources to community organizations, especially those dedicated to supporting hidden vulnerable individuals. Relying solely on voluntary assistance may not meet the needs of these special families. Therefore, the government should provide more support to ensure these families receive proper care.

The government should contemplate establishing a case manager system specifically responsible for addressing the issues of vulnerable individuals. This will facilitate early intervention and prevent tragedies. In some cases, families might initially refuse assistance, but their attitudes may change over time or because of changing circumstances. Social workers providing assistance should possess the necessary sensitivity and awareness to build trust and provide essential support.

The Sau Mau Ping tragedy serves as a stark reminder that both the government and society must take a more proactive stance in assisting the vulnerable. The government should enhance CSSA mechanisms, and healthcare institutions should increase their sensitivity. Society should prioritize neighborhood care and support the development of care teams. Collaboration between the government and society is essential, ensuring adequate resources and the establishment of a case manager system to provide better support and prevent similar tragedies. This will contribute to creating a more caring and supportive society for the vulnerable. The government should make every effort to strengthen the social welfare safety net. This includes the launch of a caregiver hotline and the establishment of a one-stop website to provide relevant information.

The author is vice-president of Hong Kong Psychological Counselling & Consultation Society, a Senior Chinese Psychological Counselor and Course Instructor and full member of Asian Academy of Family Therapy.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Lau Kin-shing:HK society should take better care of vulnerable individuals (China Daily HK Edition, 13 Nov 2023)

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/361082?showpdf=true#HK-society-should-take-better-care-of-vulnerable-individuals

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

中國夢智庫| 香港社會應更關愛隱藏弱勢個體 

早前觀塘秀茂坪邨秀慧樓發生的令人傷痛的事件,兩名智障兄弟餓死,引起社會對隱藏弱勢個體問題的關注。這悲劇事件揭示了這些個體在香港所面臨的風險。

這對在事件中去世的兄弟與一名約70歲且患有認知障礙的年老母親同住,他們在日常生活中無疑面臨著巨大挑戰。可悲的是,由於五月份年老母親因念珠菌感染住院,當不幸事件發生時她尚未出院。兩兄弟被迫獨自應對,直到大廈保安在例行巡邏中發現異味才通報當局。有人懷疑由於他們無法自理且沒有照顧者,兄弟倆在長時間的孤立後餓死。

有關家庭當時正在接受綜合社會保障援助計劃(簡稱綜援CSSA)。相關政府機構明白家庭狀況,本應更積極了解其需求。由於這宗悲劇,相應政府機構應加強CSSA計劃,引入機制確保有需要的人能及時獲得支援。

醫院管理局應提高對老年患者和特殊需求家庭的敏感性。當家庭成員住院時,醫療機構應評估其家庭背景,提供適當支援。此外,如果患者中斷醫學檢查,醫院應跟進了解原因,確保其醫療需求得到滿足。

在這事件中,親戚曾試圖探訪該家庭但被拒絕,凸顯了社區護理的重要性。社會應強調鄰里互助的精神。當個人發現有人需要幫助時,應表現更多關切並提供幫助。政府可以通過教育和公共宣傳活動提高對這類情況的認識,鼓勵人們參與其中。

香港特別行政區政府在18個區設立了地區服務及關愛隊伍(關愛隊)。這些隊伍的主要目的是整合社區資源,支援政府區域工作,強化社區網絡。關愛隊探訪有需要的人,協助處理緊急情況和突發事件。對於居住在家中需要幫助的個人,關愛隊可以發揮重要作用。我相信,憑藉他們對社區的瞭解和對服務的奉獻精神,關愛隊成員會愿意付出更多。然而,這些努力需要社會各界的支持和合作。

對關愛隊來說,與社會福利署保持密切聯繫,找出可以互補的領域,盡早識別弱勢個體的需求可能是有益的。此外,地區民政專員作為未來區議會主席,也可以帶領加強區議會進行的家訪工作。目標是在必要時提供協助,防止智障個體在家中餓死等悲劇重演。此外,應鼓勵居民向這些隊伍報告可能的弱勢個體,有助於及時提供援助,防止類似悲劇的發生。

政府應考慮向社區組織撥款,尤其是那些致力於支援隱藏弱勢個體的組織。僅依賴自願協助可能無法滿足這些特殊家庭的需求。因此,政府應提供更多支持,確保這些家庭獲得適當的照顧。

政府應思考建立一個專門負責解決弱勢個體問題的案例管理系統。這將有助於早期介入,防止悲劇的發生。在某些情況下,家庭可能最初拒絕援助,但他們的態度可能隨著時間或環境的變化而改變。提供援助的社工應具備必要的敏感性和意識,建立信任並提供基本支援。

秀茂坪的悲劇提醒著政府和社會必須更積極地協助弱勢。政府應強化CSSA機制,醫療機構應提高敏感性。社會應優先考慮鄰里護理,支持關愛隊的發展。政府和社會之間的合作至關重要,確保足夠的資源和建立案例管理系統,以提供更好的支援,防止類似悲劇的發生。這將有助於打造一個更具關愛和支持的社會。政府應盡一切努力加強社會福利安全網,包括開設照顧者熱線和建立一站式網站提供相關信息。

文:劉建誠

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《中國夢智庫》是一間扎根特區的非牟利團體;與心存熱誠的資深義工、專家與職業專業人士們合作,攜手「說好中國故事」。

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