The HKAHSS’s response to the government’s consultation document on establishing a Commission on Children (31 January 2018)
HKAHSS is pleased with the government’s proposed establishment of Commission on Children, which is expected to plan for both long-term goals and strategies for all-round development of children.
We agree to the vision that is outlined in the consultation documents for the Commission on Children which is to ensure Hong Kong as a place where children will be well-nurtured to fully develop their potential as their rights and their welfare are respected and protected.”
In response to the consultation document, we have the following suggestions:
- Grant the Council members appropriate scope of work and proper recognition
According to consultation document, the main purpose of “Child-Affairs Council” is to :
(a) advise the Government on the development of strategies related to the development and advancement of children;
(b) enhance integration and rationalisation of children-related policies and initiatives under different bureaux/departments and with advisory bodies;
(c) review children-related services by the Government and non-governmental organisations and identify areas for improvement;
(d) promote children’s rights as articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and encourage direct consultation with children on matters that affect them;
(e) initiate surveys and research studies on children’s issues;
(f) manage funding schemes for promotional and public educational projects, engage with stakeholders, and organise other promotional activities; and
(g) develop a framework to evaluate the extent to which the vision is achieved.
We are concerned as to how the Council would realize these purposes because the document merely describes the Council will concentrate on the consultation strategies, conducting surveys, evaluation and promotion. However, it does not clarify whether the Council is independent with proper monitoring and coordination function amongst relevant government departments. All these will hinder the Council from the task of protecting children’s rights and benefits.
HKAHSS would like to advise the government to not only strengthen the role of the Commission members but also to grant them rights to direct and monitor different departments in the government that are dealing with child affairs. Otherwise, the Commission on Children is merely another consultative organization inside the government.
- Reevaluate the target group that the Council is serving
As suggested by the Commission on Youth, the target group the Commission on Children will be serving is mainly children below the age of 14 so as to avoid repetitive coverage. However, it is not desirable to distort its scope of service just because of the existence of Commission on Youth.
According to the Article 1 of Convention on the rights of the Child, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. We could look at how other countries are executing matters related to children as a reference to decide how we prepare our policies for the best of Hong Kong.
It is advisable for the Hong Kong government to think twice before settling on the proposal of allowing two separate parties to handle children’s affairs at different stages, which is obviously unfavorable to students’ all-rounded development. The procedures and follow-up work would thus become complicated if two parties were to handle the same batch of secondary students. It is simply not feasible to consider the rationale of establishing Commission on Children to serve children ranging from 0 to 14 simply because of the existence of Commission on Youth.
- Define the relationship between children and adolescents
No matter whether we will have Commission on Children together with the Commission on Youth, the government need to address the issue on how both commissions would collaborate with each other in the long run to facilitate a smooth transition from children to adolescents It is definitely not enough to merely rely on the Chief Secretary for Administration as the middleman to manage the two commission. We highly suggest having a more thorough scrutiny and analysis in the planning process to achieve a harmonious working ambience between the two commissions.
- Appoint potential representatives with sufficient experience
It is of utmost importance to appoint sufficient representatives who veteran educators in the in preschool, primary and the secondary levels. .
- Outline a concrete and feasible proposal
The commission to be established should place children as a priority when planning and devising the framework so as to benefit children’s development the most. The Commission should take into account both short-term and long-term approaches in devising the proposal instead of dwelling on more urgent issues only.
We are pleased to see that the government has shown concern for the well-being of children and decided to establish the Commission on Children. We do believe to fully exhibit the Commission’s potential, the government should undergo a detailed and comprehensive scaffolding for the Communication to build a genuinely feasible environment for children to thrive.