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Integrated Children and Youth Social Services
The development of integrated services in Hong Kong aims to reduce the fragmentation and duplication of services, fill service gaps, make manpower deployment and resources allocation become more flexible, and concern community needs (Angie; Hong Kong Government, 1991).
According to Social Welfare Department, integrated children and youth service centre (ICYSC) integrates children and youth centre-based team, school social work team and outreach team to better serve the multiple needs of children and youth aged from 6 to 24 using the “total person approach”. There are four main objectives as shown below:
- Facilitating the personal development of children and youth to develop their life skills, potential and problem-solving ability.
- Enhancing the social development of children and youth in building up positive social values and attitudes, enhancing interpersonal and family relationships as well as contributing to the well being of the community.
- Adopting a community-based planning strategy to address to local youth needs and to arouse the community’s concerns on youth issues so that young people could grow up in a more concerned and supportive environment.
- Providing guidance and support to children and youth in disadvantaged circumstances such as disadvantaged family environment, deprived living environment and unfavourable social environment etc. and to direct them to more positive lifestyle.
ICYSC mainly provides four kinds of core programs, including social responsibility and competence enhancement programmes, supportive services, socialization programmes, and guidance and counseling services. Social responsibility and competence enhancement programmes can enhance civic mindfulness and involvement of children and youth in community issues. Supportive services for disadvantaged children and youth aim at facilitating mutual support and enhancing their personal as well as social functioning. Socialization programmes aim at helping children and youth enhance the interpersonal and family relationships and development of life skills. Guidance and counseling services aim at providing opportunities for children and youth to deal with their difficulties and stress.
Apart from the core programmes, ICYSC also focused on how can the centre attract more children and youth, how to enable them to utilize their leisure time constructively, how to build rapport with members and their families, and how to build up community links. Among the work of ICYSC, community needs should be given the highest priority and the centre should collaborate with other significant persons or systems which affect the welfare of the children and youth.
There is no regulation or guidelines about what integrated model should be adopted by ICYSC. The integrated model really depends on the agency and the community served so that clients and residents are best benefited.
Strengths and Limitations of ICYSC
The areas of strengths and weaknesses of ICYSC can be interpreted in different kinds of integration as different agencies may apply different integration models or concepts.
- Service Integration
For service users, service integration allows earlier intervention, the service gap is narrowed and the stigmatization of clients are lessened. However, this may weaken services for groups with special needs, such as marginal youth. For workers, higher degree of coordination can be developed with insights from colleagues but it takes much time to communicate and both workload and pressure are increased. For agency, there can be higher flexibility in deploying manpower and resources, preventing the overlapping of services. Nevertheless, it increases the time needed and the difficulty in management and coordination. The quality of supervision may be lowered. There may also be insufficient space in peak periods, including after school hours and weekends. These may affect the quality of service to children and youth.
- Profession-oriented Integration
Different professionals gather and work together. For example, policemen work with social workers in Police Superintendent Discretion Scheme. Teachers cooperate with social workers to hold school events for students. With different professional skills and knowledge, the quality of service can be increased. Multi-level and multi-disciplinary interventions are also available. However, as every profession may have its own values and preferences, it requires much time for discussion, collaboration and implementation of services. In case of conflicts among professionals, conflict-resolution is required. In this way, the quantity of time providing direct services to children and youth may become limited.
- Method-oriented Integration
Different intervention methods like casework, group work, community work, asset-based community development model can be merged together to form a multi-level intervention. This makes it more flexible to fulfill clients with different needs. This kind of integration trains workers’ skills and build up their knowledge so the services provide to children and youth can meeting the changing societal needs. Since workers have to step into and consider many intervention methods together, the workload and pressure of workers are highly increased. If they are burnt out, the efforts paid in working will be decreased.
- Agency-oriented Integration
Different agencies can collaborate together and increase their resource pool by sharing. Resources can be manpower, financial support professional service or specific knowledge and skills. A typical example would be volunteer group where children and youth centre works with elderly centre or rehabilitation centre. These kinds of cooperation can best utilized resources from and strengths of different agencies, avoiding the overlapping of services. As this kind of integration requires the collaboration of different agencies and the efforts to match clients’ needs with resources, it is relatively time-consuming.
- Locality-oriented Integration
Similar to agency-oriented integration, locality-oriented integration makes use of the resource pool but it is particularly from community and aims at serving community needs. The sharing of resources strengthens the interflow and referral system with agencies in the same locality, reducing the administration process and enhancing the cohesion in the community. Social capital built and convenience are beneficial to service users. Again, it is sometimes time-consuming as consensus and negotiation are not easy to achieve.
- Client-oriented Integration
Different services under one roof can be served to different clients’ profiles or needs. The services are more person-centered so as to promote holistic development of clients, serving multiple and developmental needs throughout their life-spans by single point of entry. To fully adopt this integration, high level of coordination among teams as well as case management are crucial. Outreach work has to be carried out in order to better understand clients’ needs. Hence, workers may have higher workload and pressure. There may also be conflicts between different types of clients.
There are also some general limitations of ICYSC model. Models are not regularly and comprehensively evaluated. The government didn’t provide clear operational guidelines to NGO on the way of implementation of integration. Owing to the governmental subvention (i.e. lump sum grant), service providers have to fulfill requirement of funding service agreement so they focus more on quantitative output than qualitative outcome. With fixed amount of subvention, agencies compete with each other to apply for resources and funding. When services are directed by funding, it may not fit the community needs well. The lump sum grant also hinder long-term planning of services and sustainable service development as no one can guarantee there will be enough resources for the events in the coming years.
Improvement on Implementation of ICYSC
There are some suggestions on how to improve the implementation of ICYSC model. And they are categorized into worker, agency and policy levels.
1) Worker Level
The government may support mandatory training to social workers and other relevant professions to let them master and update their knowledge and skills to meet the changing integration environment. Workers may also make use of their free time and working hours to better equipped themselves to comply with agency’s integration model.
2) Agency Level
The agency can review community needs regularly and frequently. It can also develop a web-based electronic database for more effective case-management and share among multi-disciplinary teams confidentially so as to provide more integrated and real-time client-based information. The pool of resources should be strengthened by developing self-sustaining services and reducing the limitation from government funding.
3) Policy Level
The government should introduce emergency funding to meet new or sudden community needs and provide financial security to facilitate long-term planning in NGO. FSA should be evaluated and restructured based on quality and fulfillment of community needs. ICYSC models should be regularly evaluated to see if amendment is needed with the invitation of suggestions from agencies and citizens. Although different districts may have different needs, there should be some common needs for children and youth in Hong Kong. It is good to synchronize services for these common needs among service providers in Hong Kong. Last but not least, tripartite collaboration among the public, the private sector and the government should be enhanced so resource pool will be magnified and self-sustainability can be promoted.
It is hoped that by adopting the more appropriate integration model, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the adopted integrated model with continual evaluation and improvement, children and youth can satisfy their diverse needs in a holistic manner. Children and youth can enjoy one-stop and user-friendly services. Hence, the future generation can be nurtured well and contribute to society when time comes.
Angie, Y. The purpose and future development of social services integration.
Hong Kong Government (1991). White paper on social welfare into the 1990s and
beyond. Retrieved 9 May, 2014, from http://ebook.lib.hku.hk/CADAL/B38633498.pdf
Social Welfare Department. Funding and service agreement (lump sum grant)
integrated children and youth service centres (ICYSC). Retrieved 9 May, 2014, from http://www.swd.gov.hk/doc/fsa_sd/ICYSC.pdf
Social Welfare Department. Integrated children and youth service centres. Retrieved
9 May, 2014, from http://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_young/sub_centreserv/
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