Why social workers are getting very angry

November 25, 2019 18:22
Protesters clash with police outside the Polytechnic University on Nov. 17. The impact of the tear gas attacks and white terror is being felt by the entire society, says the author. Photo: Reuters

On Nov. 17, the Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services held a public hearing on the welfare of those affected by the political crisis that has gripped the city since June.

As we all know, Hong Kong is undergoing a collective trauma, and every citizen is affected. The impact of the tear gas attacks and white terror is being felt by the entire society, and everybody either ourselves or someone we know – has become a victim.

And as history has proven, a social trauma of such proportions often takes years to heal.

It is for this reason that the social welfare sector is calling for a contingency plan to deal with the far-reaching emotional implications of the political crisis to the public.

Unfortunately, not only has the administration failed to devise any “strategic preparations” for the current crisis, but it also doesn't have the mindset for crisis management.

Worse still, the government so far hasn’t clearly defined the role of social workers when it comes to frontline humanitarian support.

In fact, police have arrested at least 40 social workers who have been performing humanitarian rescue work during protests and clashes over the past few months.

While public demand for social work services is now reaching “crisis proportions” amid the protests, it appears our government still naively believes that all it needs to do is to boost existing regular services, such as relaxing the terms of the current Funding and Service Agreements for youth and family services provided by non-governmental organizations, diverting more resources into youth outreach services, etc.

If anything, these measures are but a drop in the bucket compared to the soaring public demand for emotional and psychological support services from basically all walks of life as our city continues to be gripped by social turmoil.

Of course, the best “contingency plan” to resolve our current crisis would be for the government to redeem itself by immediately calling a halt to police brutality and meeting the five demands put forward by the public.

I sincerely hope this will happen.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 22

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legislative Council member