Plan International Hong Kong is pleased to know that the Chief Executive has proposed to legislate mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases in Policy Address 2022. However, to motivate child-related workers to fulfill their child safeguarding responsibilities, apart from formulating a mandatory reporting mechanism, it is also imperative to enhance local’s Child Safeguarding standards in child-related organisations.
With the increasing cases of institutional child abuse in the past year, we see there is a lack of guidance to prevent child abuse. According to the Situation Analysis Study on Child Safeguarding Policy by Plan International Hong Kong conducted from Mar 2020 to Apr 2021, 1 in 5 (22.8%) children had encountered at least one kind of harm in schools, private tuition centres or interest classes in the past six months, including ‘having intimate bodily touch with teachers’, ‘physical punishment by teachers’, ‘left out by teachers’ and ‘bullied by peers’. More alarmingly, 1 in 10 of the children (11.2%) had been physically punished in educational institutions, although corporal punishment has been banned in schools since 1991. We strongly advise the Government to implement the following measures to make prevention and intervention possible and effective.
1. Encourage child-related institutions to formulate Child Safeguarding Policy
• Reporting child abuse cases is only a secondary precautionary measure in protecting a child’s safety. To prevent institutional child abuse, the Government should establish relevant standards and regulations for child-related institutions to follow and take corresponding enhancement measures in the supervision and monitoring system. Moreover, we encourage child-related organisations to set up Child Safeguarding Policy to minimise the risks of harm and abuse in the first place.
• Plan International Hong Kong has developed a Child Safeguarding Policy framework with four components and 20 child safeguarding standards following a comprehensive literature review of relevant legal requirements and guidelines from other jurisdictions. We hope to provide the Government and the industry with an evidence-based reference for developing Child Safeguarding Policy to ensure the safety of children in the organisation is well safeguarded.
2. Enact legislation to confirm the legal responsibility of child-related institutions on child safeguarding
• While it is the duty of the professional workers to report child abuse, child-related institutions should also shoulder the legal responsibility to report any suspected child abuse that happens within its institution and make the mechanism of SCRC mandatory for existing employees, self-employed persons and volunteers to further prevent child abuse cases from happening.