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Issue 40 (11/2017)

Issue 40

Table of Contents

Retrospect and Prospects of the Committee on Administration
Work report
News Update
Articles contributed by RSWs

Retrospect and Prospects of the Committee on Administration

Dr. LEUNG Chuen-suen, Convenor of Committee on Administration
Convenor, Committee on Administration
Dr. LEUNG Chuen-suen

The Board has formed under it various committees and working groups to take care parts of its functions. Among these, the Committee on Administration ("Committee") is responsible for a number of tasks such as personnel, finance, administration and promotion. This issue of Newsletter highlights the work of this Committee.

Committee members

The Committee comprises eight members, namely Dr. LEUNG Chuen-suen (Convenor), Mr. CHUNG Wai-lung, Rivalino, Mr. HUI Chung-shing, Herman, S.B.S., B.B.S., M.H., J.P., Mr. KWAN Wing-shing, Vincent, Mr. LO Wa-kei, Roy, Mr. SHIU Ka-chun, Mr. TAN Tick-yee and Mr. WONG Ka-ming.

Work prospects for 2018

Refund of part of the renewal fee for registration
During the overall review of the renewal of registration for RSWs, we notice that each year an average of 30% of RSWs have not applied for renewal of registration 28 days prior to the expiry date of registration in accordance with the statutory requirement. Thus, the Board is statutorily required to serve notice by registered mail to those RSWs. This situation has persisted for years with no changes. The delivery of such notice by registered mail costs around HK$17 each at current postage level, this has resulted in a postage expense of over HK$100,000 alone for this purpose last year.

If all RSWs would apply for renewal of registration 28 days prior to expiry, such postage and related administrative cost could be saved. After deliberation on various administrative arrangements and measures, we have drawn up a scheme in which 5% of renewal fee (HK$20) will be refunded to push for renewal applications within the “Renewal Window” (i.e. not earlier than three months and not later than 28 days prior to expiry). Upon the renewal applications are approved, the Board office will send the new registration card together with the refund cheque by ordinary mail to the RSWs.

This incentive scheme will be applied to renewal applications with registration to expire on 31 January 2018 and afterwards. The related fee amendment will be effective from 1 January 2018, in which an announcement has been made on newspapers in October 2017.

Introducing credit card payment
At present, RSWs can apply for renewal of registration by post or online. Payment can be made by cheque, PPS or cash at any 7-Eleven stores. After considering different proposals, we decide to introduce online credit card payment method with the aim of improving the one-stop online renewal service. Stay tuned for more information in early 2018.

Communication means
Since the establishment of the Board, we have regularly updated our work by issuing this Newsletter. We consider that the printed version of newsletter is neither effective nor an environmentally-friendly communication method nowadays. For such reasons, we have decided that from the 42nd issue of Newsletter which will be published in October 2018, only electronic version will be sent to RSWs via email and printed version will be available for collection in person at the Board Office.

Until now, around 30% of RSWs have not provided email address for communication or for receiving Newsletters. Here we encourage RSWs to provide their email addresses by filling in the "Notification on Communication Means".

Regarding the Annual Meeting for RSWs held by the Board, due to its relatively low attendance rate over the years and the fact that all work reports are released online from time to time, we decide that the Annual Meeting will be suspended as from this year of 2017.


1.    Financial report (From 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017)
As a statutory body, it is the responsibility of the Board to manage its capital properly and keep itself financially stable and healthy. During the financial year from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, the audited income of the Board was at HK$8,780,000 (2% increase compared with that for the previous year), while the audited expenditure was at HK$6,940,000 (12% decrease compared with that for the previous year), with an annual surplus of HK$ 1,840,000. The reduction in expenditure was mainly due to work postponement in handling complaints and conducting disciplinary hearings, leading to a 60% drop in related legal fees. The related expenditure is expected to bounce upwards in the current financial year.

If RSWs wish to read the auditors' report in details, you are welcomed to view or to download the full version under the "News Update" of the Board's website.

2.    Publishing meeting agendas and minutes
To increase the transparency of operation and meetings of the Board, starting from this term of the Board, the dates, agendas and minutes of all Board meetings, as well as those of committee and working group meetings, are released and published in the Board's website (with exception to the sensitive information).

3.    Promoting the functions of the Social Workers Registration Board
By delegating out Board office's staff to various institutions and expounding information to first-year and final-year students, we wish to let social work students have a better understanding of the background of the statutory registration system, functions of the Board and registration procedures before they enter the field. In 2017, we have so far visited various institutions 13 times with around 626 students attending the sessions.

4.    Group visits
From time to time, the Board receives delegations from various regions and we exchange information about the regulatory and monitoring system of social work. In total, we have received six delegations in 2017.

Almost two years have elapsed since the current term of the Board has assumed the responsibilities, the Committee will keep striving for improvement of our work.

Work report

Promotion work report

From March to September 2017, staff of the Board visited the following tertiary institutions to introduce the work of the Board to social work students:

Hong Kong Baptist University (Final year): 84
Hong Kong Baptist University (First year): 39
Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Sha Tin) (Final year): 66
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (First year): 27
The University of Hong Kong (Final year) : 22
School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong (Final year): 40
Hong Kong College of Technology (Final year): 93
City University of Hong Kong (Final year): 40
Community College of City University (Final year): 75
Caritas Institute of Higher Education (Final year): 140
Total Participants: 626

Receiving visitors

From March to September 2017, the Board received the following delegations:
  • 青海社福救助和社會工社區服務赴香港培訓班
  • 深圳市龍崗區民政領域社會服務創新研究專題赴港培訓班
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology
  • Study tour from School of Sociology of Central China Normal University
  • China Youth University of Political Studies
  • 安徽社會工作與社會治理香港培訓班

Social work qualification assessment

From March to September 2017, the following qualifications were approved by the Board for recognition review:

  • Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Social Work (full-time), Caritas Institute of Higher Education
  • Higher Diploma in Social Work of School of Continuing and Professional Studies (full-time), The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Master of Social Work (part-time), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Bachelor of Social Work (Hons) (full-time), Hong Kong Baptist University

Social work day

As always, the Board supports the "Social Work Day 2018" activities to be held by organizations in the field and takes part in the preparatory work to spread the spirit of social work through various activities.

Review of Code of Practice

One of the major tasks of the current term is to review the "Code of Practice for Registered Social Workers". The Taskforce on Review of Code of Practice has held meetings since its establishment in January this year to review the Code of Practice and Guidelines. During the review, it has made reference to relevant codes in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Taiwan, so as to aim for a comprehensive review.

Review on Principles, Criteria, and Standards for Recognizing Qualifications in Social Work for Registration of Registered Social Workers (PCS)

With reference to the opinions collected from various sectors earlier, the Committee on Qualification Assessment and Registration is now working on a comprehensive review of the PCS.  The second-round consultation is expected to be held in mid 2018.

News Update

Partly refund of renewal fee for renewal application within the "Renewal Window"

If RSWs wish to continue using the title "social workers", according to Section 20 of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance, it is their duty to apply for renewal of registration to the Registrar in the specified form every year not earlier than 3 months and not later than 28 days prior to the expiry of the current registration. The aforesaid statutory period is named "Renewal Window" for sake of simplicity.

Taking the expiry date of 31 January 2018 as an example, the diagram below illustrates the opening of the Renewal Window to fall on 1 November 2017 for accepting renewal applications for registration until the closure of window on 3 January 2018. On the next working day after the Renewal Window is closed (i.e. 4 January 2018), the Board is required by law to issue a 28-day-deadline notification by registered mail to those social workers who have not submitted their application for renewal of registration. Upon the expiry of the final deadline, for those RSWs who have not applied for renewed on time, the Registrar will remove their names from the Register. If RSWs wish to resume their registration status, they are required to re-apply for registration.
Time frame of renewal of registration

For the purpose to save the administrative cost, the Board will introduce an incentive scheme to encourage RSWs to apply for renewal within the "Renewal Window". RSWs who have submitted their renewal application successfully within the "Renewal Window", the Board will refund HK$20 by cheque to RSWs together with the new registration card. This incentive scheme is applicable to renewal applications with registration to expire on 31 January 2018 and afterwards. The refund cheque will be sent to the eligible RSWs on 1 January 2018 and thereafter.

Change of Membership of the Committee on Qualification Assessment and Registration

Dr. CHU Cheong-hay was appointed as from 30 August 2017 to be co-opted member of the Committee on Qualification Assessment and Registration until 15 January 2019.


(As of 23 October 2017)

(I) Registered social workers

Gender distribution of RSWs
Male: 6,644 (29.1%)
Female: 15,563 (70.08%)
Total: 22,207

Job distribution of RSWs
Social worker posts: 14,979 (67.5%)
Non-social worker posts: 7,228 (32.5%)
Total: 22,207

Qualification of RSWs
Recognized Bachelor Degree: 14,366 (64.7%)
Recognized Diploma/Associate Degree: 7,749 (34.9%)
Others: 92 (0.4%)
Total: 22,207

(II) No. of complaints

Number of complaints received since the establishment of the Board: 472
Number of disciplinary inquiries conducted since the establishment of the Board: 95

Articles contributed by RSWs

There is a kind of conspiracy called "making people forget"

YU Kei-yeung
Registered Social Worker

Early on, when I supervised a newly-employed social worker, I shared the information about the “Accountable Reimbursement” which was established before the “Lump Sum Grant Subvention System”  in 2000. I could never imagine that she had no idea about the operation of the “Accountable Reimbursement” at all, because the history had not been taught by the tertiary institutions when she studied the higher diploma and the bachelor degree in social work.

My colleague found my sharing on the operation of ‘Accountable Reimbursement” as unbelievable and impossible, as if I were lying. I had shared only three scenarios with her: firstly, subvented agencies might employ social workers of different seniority depending on their actual needs. They were with fewer constraints and worries because salaries were paid in accordance with a stipulated scale and the amount could be reimbursed from the government for actual sums expended.

Secondly, social workers might change their jobs of different natures or among different employing agencies according to their own exploration, continuing education and personal developmental stages. The salary level was pegged with the scale and would be recognized and paid by the new agencies as the expenditures could be reimbursed for the actual sums expended. This encouraged mobility of social workers, and agencies were willing to hire social workers with diverse backgrounds which brought their past experiences to the new agency and it helped promoting innovative thinking in the development of agency.

Thirdly, subvented agency made employer contribution at either 5% or 10% or 15% to the ORSO Scheme depending on employees’ length of service while employee contribution remained as 5%. More importantly, when a social worker changed his job, the new employing agency would still make employer contribution at 5% or 10% or 15% provided that he attained the required length of service in the field.

The ‘Accountable Reimbursement’ was implemented for over two decades while the ‘Lump Sum Grant Subvention System’ has just been in operation for 16 years. The government has successfully divided the agencies. In the past, agencies would present in a unified voice on their commonly concerned issues, but it is rare nowadays.

The ‘Lump Sum Grant Subvention System’ provides flexibility to the agency in using the fund, but in truth the fund becomes insufficient when it is not financed under the ‘Accountable Reimbursement” anymore.  On one hand, agencies do not have sufficient resources for providing services. On the other hand, the government lacks long-term planning and commitment to social welfare development. Instead, to resolve the social problems, the government just adopts different funding systems, boosts agencies to work with business sector, advocates corporate social responsibility from business sector.  Under this situation, agencies immerse themselves in bidding for funding of any amount and competing for projects of any scale leading to infighting among agencies. It comes to my knowledge that once at a meeting, a representative of an agency expressed openly that his agency was willing to take over the service if another agency had financial difficulties and the services were so affected.

The strife among agencies is shifted also that between agencies and their employees by the government. I recall, at the time of implementation of the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’, the government assured that doors were open for discussion with agencies if agencies got into any financial difficulties in the future. Yet for 16 years, the weird thing is that agencies have made all effort to reserve funds for emergency use in case of suspension of the “lump sum grant subvention”. The old saying is true that there is no such thing as free lunch. The reserve indeed is saved from employing social workers at lower salary level as it is unpegged wtih the stipulated salary scale. Eventually, there is no agency having financial difficulties or requiring discussion with the government. In this way, Ms. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, and her followers can always uphold this ‘lump sum grant subvention system’.

At the beginning of this article, I have mentioned that there are some colleagues who have never heard of the history of ‘Accountable Reimbursement’. No wonder they do not understand our indignation towards the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’ or our persistent urge to bring it down. There is a kind of conspiracy, namely ‘making people forget’. That means when the old generation is gone, the new generation is no longer familiar with the past. People will not remember the ‘Accountable Reimbursement’ and the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’ will become the norm.

In speaking of forgetting, it is always the human nature to justify and defend their behaviour and wrong decisions made in the past, and this is a trap that the management of agency often falls into. I hope the management will not forget the mission of social work when they choose to become a social worker. All we pursue is a fair and stable system, which allows us to serve the needy in the society with care and love  without worries behind our mind. Don’t forget that the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’ was invented by the government. It is time for all social workers to stand in line, aiming to bring down the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’ and reinstate the ‘accountable reimbursement’!

Editor's note: Before the full implementation of lump sum grant, there were four funding models for social welfare services, namely ‘modified standard cost system’, ‘model cost system’, ‘lump sum grant’, and ‘unit rate subsidy’.

(The above article does not represent the stance of the Board.)

A reflection of various facets of the welfare sector through the Social Work Cup

Mak Wing Tin, Tony
Registered Social Worker

There are many football fanatics in our field. Social workers even gather colleagues in their agency and friends to participate in the Social Work Cup 7-a-side Football Competition and the Masters Games (先進盃) Football Competition organised by the HKSWGU and co-organized by other organizations. So what are the relations between football matches and the ‘lump sum grant subvention system’ (LSG)?

The Social Work Cup 7-a-side Football Competition has been running for thirty years, to facilitate friendships among colleagues and agencies. We can also take this opportunity to catch up with some ex-colleagues for exchanging work experiences and discussing current situation in the field. The competition has also witnessed the changes of the social welfare sector.

I am fond of football since I was young. When I was studying for the Diploma in Social Work, I joined the football team of our department. After graduation, I joined a middle size agency which focusing mainly on youth services and I represented the agency to participate the Social Work Cup. Most of my teammates were colleagues employed under the ‘old system’ with certain seniority (like AC Milan). Now some of them have become management or even retired. At that time, it was the sixteenth Social Work Cup, when ‘LSG’ had been implemented for two years. Agencies were adapting to the changes ‘LSG’ had brought. Some of them performed organizational restructuring, while the others unpegged from the salary scale.

There was a very special team called the Social Work United (社工聯). Its team players were not only from a singular organisation but also of various tertiary institutions, small size agencies and agencies which could not join the Social Work Cup. This team was on par with those teams of the sizable agencies. After leaving the former agency, I become a football player of that team, and the team currently joins the Social Work Cup in the name of ‘HKSWGU Guest Team (社總邀請隊)’.

In the second year of participation in the Social Work Cup, I took part in its coordination work and even acted as the manager of the football team of my agency. 

Many football teams of sizable agencies are formed and subsidised by their staff associations or staff recreation clubs. The responsible leaders are all passionate about football and willing to spend a lot of personal time for organising the teams. They recruit football players within the agency, arrange times and venues for training and explore support from the senior management or executive committee within the agency for resources to participate the Social Work Cup.

I believe that the difficulty of enticing good football players to stay in the team causes pain and trouble for team leaders. They need to restructure the team almost every year due to the turnover or retirement in the agency. Every time I catch up with the old schoolmates and teammates, they express their helplessness of the fact that their colleagues transfer to other agencies in every few years or even every year. Only colleagues with a certain level of seniority are willing to stay in the team and to lead junior colleagues or non-social work colleagues playing the games. And these junior colleagues also transfer to another agency in a year or so or leave the social work field after one or two years.

In recent years, I observe that the number players of the ‘HKSWGU Guest Team’ has been increasing. At the 30th Social Work Cup, there were four guest teams (it showed that the number of players for the ‘football clubs’ was unstable and it was the reason why they had to participate in the game under this name). Meanwhile, I also find that a number of large traditional agencies, which have strength in winning the Cup in the past, are facing the problem of aging. At the same time, certain large agencies having newly joined the game are emerging. It is a phenomenon likened to the change of dynasties. However, no one can ward off the biggest enemy, that is the loss of talents.

In terms of professional football, the transferring of a player from one club to another is not worse at all. It can improve the living standard of players and even enhance the capacity of the football teams. In long run, this contributes to the development of football. Nevertheless, Social Work Cup is merely amateur games, whereas social welfare services are of a profession. Colleagues will not be benefited from transferring to another agency and they will not expect this kind of transfer be flourishing. All in all, their seniority will not be recognized but in contrary turns to become negative equity. In principle, premier football clubs can help pooling talents from all around the world. However, succession and inheritance of social work experience and skills is necessary. With the constraints imposed by LSG, even so-called ‘premier agencies” will also not to offer better remuneration terms for recruiting the elites in the profession, instead having to be ‘unscrupulous’ by holding on to their assets. 

Amongst the core players participating in the Social Work Cup, a large number of participants belong to large-sized agencies, some of which gained the support from the Executive Committee or management of the agencies. They have more resources and are stronger in terms of management and morale. The same would happen when agencies bid and compete for projects. Agencies with more resources and support from the community, they have higher chance for winning the bid if they submit the proposal at cheaper price. This twists the ecosystem of the field, and colleagues would choose to leave and join other agencies taking into account of the working environment, morale and career prospects, etc..

Do you think the LSG can increase the financial flexibility of agencies? In fact, there is no agency  comparable with Paris Saint-Germaine in terms of resources. There is also no agency which could afford to pay salary in accordance with experience of social workers. Do you think that LSG has no impact on large scale agencies? Yet, some agencies have the same problems as A.C. Milan i.e. aging of its core players and the polarisation of their levels of experience. Do you think that these agencies are able to train the new entry? In a market flooded with bidding as well as short-term employment contracts, can they still be like FC Barcelona and train the youngsters well? All agencies face the same situation. Is it fair? It is wrong again. Not to forget that there are premier agencies with “red” background like Shanghai Shenhua FC and Guangzhou Evergrande FC which have carved out a niche for themselves in Hong Kong! Everybody should note that social welfare organisations are not professional football clubs that may get their resources through commercial sponsorship, training and club transfers.

With thirty years of history, each football team participating in the Social Work Cup has an arch-rival. In my opinion, “LSG” is the old arch-rival we are sick of the most. We are tired of their sneakiness and unfair power, so disgusted we are by the way they cheat in the game!

(The above article does not represent the stance of the Board.)