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Ombudsman probes Government’s follow-up mechanism regarding psychological health assessment of school children

3 April 2017

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, today (April 3) declared a direct investigation to examine whether the follow-up mechanism of the Department of Health (“DH”) and the Education Bureau (“EDB”) for the psychological health assessment of school children is adequate and effective.


In 1995, DH launched the Student Health Service Programme (“the Programme”). Its aim is to safeguard the physical and psychological health of school children. Over the years, more than 90% of the local school children have enrolled in the Programme. Every school year, DH will arrange for the enrolled school children to attend health assessment sessions (which includes psychological health assessment) that match their different stages of development. If the psychological health assessment shows that certain school children would need follow-up services, their cases would be referred to the Department’s Special Assessment Centres or other specialist clinics/organisations. EDB’s role is to help DH disseminate information about the Programme to the schools, while the schools are mainly to assist DH in delivering and collecting the application forms of the Programme.


From media reports, the Office of The Ombudsman has noticed that some parents indicated that even though their children had been assessed to have psychological health problems, there would not be any follow-up action or referral by the departments concerned. Some parents have also pointed out that there is a lack of transparency in the release of information regarding the Programme, such that parents are not aware of their children’s assessment results and of any subsequent follow-up actions.


The Office’s preliminary inquiry shows that if students do not attend the assessment sessions, their cases would not be followed up. And if students who attend the assessment sessions are not accompanied by their parents, DH would merely rely on the students themselves to relay the assessment results to their parents, and would cease following up the case once a referral has been made. The Office considers that there may be impropriety on the part of the two departments in carrying out the Programme and in following up cases of students with psychological health problems, which may jeopardize the effectiveness of the Programme.


Ms Lau said, “Psychological health is very crucial in the personal development and growth of school children. The Student Health Service Programme can play a key role in the prevention and early discovery of any psychological health problems among school children. In case DH and EDB fail to carry out the Programme effectively, and identify students who need help at an early stage, those students would probably miss their opportunity for timely assistance. We have initiated this direct investigation to probe whether the follow-up mechanism of DH and EDB regarding the psychological health assessment of school children is effective, in order to ensure that adequate support is provided to the school children and their parents.”


The ambit of this direct investigation covers:


(1) whether DH’s mechanism to follow up cases of students having been assessed under the Programme to have psychological health problems is effective;


(2) whether the measures adopted by EDB and DH in releasing information of the Programme to schools and parents and in coordinating the follow-up action for children with psychological health problems are adequate; and


(3) any areas for improvement and enhancement.


The Ombudsman now invites members of the public to send their views in writing to the Office of The Ombudsman by 10 May, 2017:


Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149


Office of The Ombudsman
April 3, 2017