Family services in Hong Kong are mostly provided by Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs) situated throughout the city, including 41 such centres operated by the Social Welfare Department, and another 26 operated by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under government subvention.
The IFSC service mode was devised in 2004 to provide a one-stop-shop service – from preventive to supportive to remedial – for families within a defined geographic service boundary. However, a review published in 2010 found that relatively more IFSC professional manpower is deployed to remedial work. The review also recommended that IFSCs should find ways to improve efficiency and enhance services through the appropriate use of information technology.
In view of this, the Club’s Charities Trust has initiated the Jockey Club SMART Family-Link Project in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and NGOs.
This four-year project, making effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) and data analytics, is aimed at helping 26 NGO-operated Integrated Family Service Centres and Integrated Service Centres enhance the quality and efficiency of their family services, as well as facilitate their early identification of at-risk family cases and provide any needed intervention. The project is also aimed at building the capabilities of front-line workers so as to achieve the goal of enhancing family well-being.
A content management system (i-Connect) is being developed for the 26 NGO-operated Centres participating in the project, covering information management, assessment and administrative functions. The system will help reduce the Centres’ administrative work and facilitate their early identification of at-risk cases, so that early preventive and remedial services can be offered. ICT tools will also be developed to enable more families to access services provided by the Centres. In addition, an online platform will be established to help front-line workers join online training and experience-sharing programmes.
These initiatives will be complemented by public education activities to enhance citizens’ knowledge and understanding of healthy family functioning, as well as to encourage more social workers to organise family-based activities using ICT. The School of Public Health at HKU will conduct big data analysis on the information gathered through the i-Connect system, aiming to help policymakers, Centre operators and even individual social workers understand the emerging service needs and proactively adjust their services accordingly to meet future requirements.
The Jockey Club SMART Family-Link Project is funded by a Trust donation of over HK$157 million. It is expected to benefit about 75,000 individuals and around 1,000 social workers. Through its public education activities, online platforms and social media, a further 170,000 members of the public will be able to enhance their understanding of family well-being and thus help promote family harmony.