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Issue 52 (10/2023)

Table of Contents
  • Main Focus – Q&A
  • Work Reports
  • Sharing of Complaint Case

    Main Focus – Q&A

    1. Owing to a moment of carelessness, I was late by several days in applying for renewal of registration. However, the Board cancelled my registration and required me to re-apply in order to reinstate my status as a registered social worker. In addition to filling out forms and paying fees, it also requires me making a statutory declaration at the Home Affairs Office, which is quite time-consuming. As a result, my agency has asked me to take leave to avoid misuse of the social worker title. I would like to ask if the Board can consider being more flexible and provide a grace period for social workers in situations like mine?

    According to section 20(2)(c) of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance (“the Ordinance”), a registered social worker (“RSW”) shall apply for renewal of registration not later than 28 days prior to the expiry. If the Board has not received renewal applications from RSWs after this deadline, the Board will issue per statutory requirement an “Intention Notice on Removal of Name from the Register” by registered mail to those RSWs, and will also remind them to renew as soon as possible by other viable means (including email and SMS). If the Board does not receive the renewal application from social worker 28 days after issuing the notice of intent, his/her name will be removed from the register in accordance with the Ordinance, and under section 20(6) of the Ordinance and the Board's current policy, s/he will be required to re-apply for registration if s/he wishes to resume his/her registration status. The Board understands that social workers may miss the expiry date of their registration due to different reasons, but it is the responsibility of individual social workers to renew their registration. In addition, social workers are advised to notify the Board of any changes in their registered addresses, emails or other contact means as soon as practicable. Apart from fulfilling the statutory requirements, this is to ensure that social workers will receive the Board's correspondence and messages related to renewal of registration. According to section 16(3) of the Ordinance, RSWs shall within 3 months notify the Registrar of any change in the particulars in the register.

    I recently received a fixed penalty notice for illegal parking. May I ask if I need to report this to the Board?

    If a RSW has paid the penalty (including but not limited to contraventions like littering, illegal parking and smoking in public places etc.) according to the fixed penalty notice, as there is no charge involved, the RSW needs not report the fixed penalty to the Board. However, if the RSW does not pay the fixed penalty and does not institute legal proceedings to challenge the penalty notice, s/he will be first given a demand notice, followed by a summons. At the point of receiving summons, the RSW is charged of an offence, as a summons is a command or order by court in writing directed to an accused person, requiring him/her to attend before a magistrate to answer a charge at a time set out in the summons. For that, the RSW has to report the summons/charge to the Board as soon as reasonably practicable.

    I have accumulated 12 years of professional practice experience after obtaining my social work diploma. I have also accumulated 4 years of full-time experience after obtaining my social work degree. If the university deems it suitable to hire me as a fieldwork supervisor, can there be flexibility in waiving the requirement of accumulating no less than 5 years of post-degree experience?

    According to section 4.2.7(a) of the 8th edition of the Principles, Criteria and Standards for Recognising Qualifications in Social Work ("PCS") regarding the qualifications for fieldwork supervisors, "TIs should ensure that all Fieldwork Supervisors shall each satisfy the following requirements: (i) Shall be RSWs in Hong Kong; and is (ii) Possessing not less than 5 years’ full-time-equivalent Post-degree Professional Practising Experience". Based on these requirements, even though you have accumulated 12 years of social work practice experience before obtaining the recognized social work degree, as you have only accumulated 4 years of full-time experience after obtaining the degree, you still do not meet the requirements of the PCS. The Board considers  sub-degree and post-degree practising experience cannot be equated. Therefore, no flexibility can be allowed in this regard. 


    Work Reports

    1. Editing progress of the second series of Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiries

    The Editorial Sub-committee for Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiries earlier collected comments from individual experienced social workers and professionals of other sectors on the draft casebook. The Sub-committee was having in-depth discussions on the draft and will submit it to the Committee on Professional Conduct for consideration after consolidation and revisions.

    Qualification Assessments and Reviews

    According to the Ordinance, unless meeting other requirements, registered social workers must hold a recognised degree or diploma in social work by the Board. Therefore, the Board has the responsibility to assess social work qualifications and decide whether to grant recognition for registration. In the 2022-2023 academic year, the Board conducted accreditation assessments or reviews for 9 social work qualifications, and is following up on qualification assessments or reviews for a total of 6 social work qualifications in the 2023-2024 academic year.

    3. Promotion Work

    During the last half-year, staff of the Board Office introduced the work of the Board to the social work students of 13 local institutions through online or physical visits. We have also received guests from Mainland:

    Talks for local institutions:
    • The Chinese University of Hong Kong (60 persons)
    • The University of Hong Kong (60 persons)
    • Gratia Christian College (30 persons)
    • Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Sha Tin) of the Vocational Training Council (60 persons)
    • Caritas Institute of Higher Education (200 persons)
    • Hong Kong Shue Yan University (120 persons)
    • School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (60 persons)
    • Hong Kong Baptist University (130 persons)
    • City University of Hong Kong (120 persons)
    • UOW College Hong Kong (80 persons)
    • HKCT Institute of Higher Education (110 persons)
    • The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (60 persons)
    • Hong Kong Community College of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (50 persons)
    • Total:1,140 persons

      Visit from Mainland (In Chinse only):
    • 武漢華中科技大學社會學院社會工作系香港學習團 (27人)
    • 中國青年政治學院社會工作系學生學習團 (18人)
      visit from Mainland
      visit from Mainland

    4. Cessation of operation of the website for “Voluntary Continuing Professional Development Scheme for Registered Social Workers” (“VCPD Scheme”)

    The Board has previously announced the gradual cessation of the online platform for the VCPD Scheme, which will be completely shut down by 31 December this year. Regarding this, the Board has earlier notified the listed agencies under the VCPD Scheme, as well as current registered social workers who have participated in the VCPD Scheme, expressing appreciation for their support and participation over the years. Going forward, the Board will continue to explore more effective ways to facilitate social workers' continuing professional development. In view of the public interest, we hope that registered social workers will continue to upkeep  their professional knowledge and conduct.

    Sharing of Complaint Case


    Social Workers Registration Board (the "Board") earlier appointed a disciplinary committee to inquire into a complaint. After inquiry, the disciplinary committee ruled that one of the allegations against one of the complained social workers (Social Worker A) was established, and recommended that the Board issued a disciplinary order under section 30(1)(d) of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance (the "Ordinance"), i.e. the Chairperson of the Board to verbally admonish Social Worker A. The disciplinary committee also made an additional recommendation to excerpt this case in the Board's electronic newsletter for educational purposes without disclosing sensitive information and identities of the parties and agency involved in the complaint. The Board endorsed the recommendations of the disciplinary committee. Now with reference to the above requirements and the excerpt approach of case examples in Rethinking Social Work Professional Ethics - A Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiry Cases, the case with relevant sensitive information and identities hidden is excerpted below.

    Case Summary

    The complainant was a member of a certain social service center. One day, the complainant received a call that he believed was from the center, in which he was verbally abused and threatened with vulgar language ("Phone Call Incident"), making the complainant feeling harassed and threatened. The next day, the complainant contacted Social Worker A of the center to request checking the identity of the caller, and Social Worker A agreed to handle it but after the complainant chased multiple times over two to three months, there was still no response from Social Worker A. The complainant then contacted Social Worker B, Social Worker A's superior, for assistance. Social Worker B agreed to understand the incident at that time. But after about a month, the complainant still did not receive any response.

    Therefore, the complainant felt that Social Worker A and Social Worker B disregarded service users and had committed misconduct or negligent in professional respect, so a complaint was made against them to the Social Workers Registration Board.

    Details of the Complaint

    This complaint alleged Social Worker A and Social Worker B of committing misconduct or neglect in professional respect, which if proven, may violate section 25(1)(a) of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance. The allegations of this case were briefly described below: 

    Allegations against Social Worker A:

    Allegation 1

    On Date A, the complainant received a harassing phone call. The next day, Social Worker A accepted the complainant's request to check the center's CCTV records, saying it would be handled within 3 days, but the result was still not provided for about two to three months. The complainant chased up by phone afterwards but Social Worker A only responded that he would handle it but still did nothing. 

    Allegation 2

    On Date B, about 20 months after Date A, the complainant inquired Social Worker A again. Social Worker A at that time only repeated the previous response on the phone and told the complainant he would check the CCTV records. So the complainant notified Social Worker A that he would report to the police for help. When the police arrived at the center to understand the situation, the handling police officer informed the complainant that Social Worker A would explain to the complainant, yet the complainant still did not receive any substantial explanation from Social Worker A. 

    Allegation against Social Worker B:

    Allegation 3

    On Date C, the complainant called Social Worker B to ask if he was aware of the complainant's case and if Social Worker A had reported to him. At that time, the complainant felt Social Worker B did not grasp the incident, and Social Worker B did not actually answer and only responded several times that he would follow up. The complainant fed up and hung up the phone.

    The Consequences

    Recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee

    Allegations against Social Worker A:

    Allegation 1

    Although Social Worker A firmly denied promising the complainant to handle it within 3 days, and claimed that he had actively checked the CCTV records on the day after Date A and found out the caller's identity and handled it appropriately. However, both parties do not dispute that before Date B, Social Worker A never informed the complainant of the result of handling the Phone Call Incident. The disciplinary committee does not agree with Social Worker A's view that he did not need to communicate with the complainant about the investigation and handling of the incident. The disciplinary committee believes that as a service user of the center, the complainant sought help from Social Worker A regarding the Phone Call Incident and hoped he would investigate and handle it. As the phone call involved was dialed out from the center during its closure hours and targeted at the center's service user with vulgar language content, it was not a trivial matter. Under such circumstances, notifying the complainant of the investigation result should have been part of the handling work and also a very reasonable expectation of the complainant. But Social Worker A opted not to communicate with the complainant after investigating the incident and meeting the caller, but only responded after almost 20 months when the complainant actively asked. The disciplinary committee considers Social Worker A's conduct highly unusual.

    More importantly, "saying nothing without being asked" is not a reasonable attitude for a social worker to handle a service user's request for help. Social workers deal with individuals, communication and engagement with the service users are crucial aspects. The disciplinary committee also believes whether the complainant's calls were regarded as a complaint or an opinion, was not decisive in the disciplinary committee's decision. Given the nature of the incident, the disciplinary committee believes that a reasonable handling by a social worker should involve further communication and explanation to the complainant. Therefore, the disciplinary committee ruled that this allegation was established. 

    Allegation 2

    The disciplinary committee unanimously ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegation to its satisfaction, so ruled that the allegation was dismissed.

    Allegation against Social Worker B:

    Allegation 3

    The disciplinary committee ruled that the complainant failed to satisfy the Disciplinary Committee about the alleged incident, so ruled that the allegation was dismissed.

    After the mitigation hearing, the disciplinary committee recommended the Board to issue a disciplinary order to Social Worker A, that is “the chairperson of the Board admonish the social worker orally”, according to Section 30(1)(d) of the Ordinance. 


    Decision of the Board

    The Board accepted all the recommendations made by the Disciplinary Committee.


    Discussion Issues

    1. Social workers handling service users' complaints/opinions

    At the inquiry, the complainant and the respondent had their own arguments. There seemed to be some misunderstandings between the two parties regarding the handling of the complaint/opinion. In daily operations, how should social workers avoid similar incidents from happening? 

    2. The role of management of organizations

    In this case, as the management of the organization, what measures should be formulated to prevent similar incidents from happening again?



    1. Social workers handling service users' complaints/opinions

    Social work is a human service profession. When handling disputes, social workers should prioritize the interests of service users, utilize professional skills to minimize misunderstandings, and build mutual trust in the process. 

    In this case, it is understandable that the complainant, as a service user of the center, felt anxious about receiving harassing call from the center. As a social worker of the center, showing empathy towards the complainant's feelings and emotions, promising to investigate the facts promptly, and maintaining communication are appropriate attitudes. However, if Social Worker A did not inform the complainant that the issue was resolved, it could have kept the complainant worried. Therefore, when receiving complaints or opinions from service users, social workers should handle them prudently and fairly following established mechanisms. At the same time, they should also consider the interests and feelings of the complaining service users. Where possible, social workers should handle complaints with transparency, openness, empathy and patience, and update service users on investigation results promptly. 


    2. The role of management of organizations

    In this case, Social Worker A's defense was that if what the complainant raised was just an "opinion", there would be no deadline for response. Although this may be administratively appropriate according to the organization's regulations, from the social work professional perspective, communication between social workers and service users is crucial for building professional relationships. Where possible, the management could consider establishing mechanisms that facilitate mutual communication between social workers and service users. 


    (As at 11/10/2023

    Total Number of RSWs: 28,044

    Gender Distribution 

    Male:8,821 (31%)
    Female:19,223 (69%)

    Qualification for Registration 

    Recognized degree:19,218 (68.5%)
    Recognized diploma:8,738 (31.2%)
    Others:88 (0.3%)

    Statistics on Complaint Cases (since establishment)

    Total Complaint Cases received:753
    Total Cases for Disciplinary Inquiry:162
    Total Established Cases:44

    Note:As some cases are still in the preliminary stage or disciplinary proceedings, the above figures are not expressed in proportion. 


    Articles contributed by RSWs
    (The content of the following articles is solely the author's personal opinion and does not represent any position of the Board. The language of the article is published according to the original manuscript, no translated version is provided.)














    我覺得當一名社工實習導師要有以下的特質:1.用心聆聽 2.傳輸激勵的話 3.富人情味


    我覺得導師要向實習同學傳輸激勵的話。實習同學出實習,其中實習同學不單具備心理因素,而且實習同學要同時滿足實習機構和學院的要求。我記得實習同學告訴我,她見導師和第一次去實習機構的pre-visit見機構的主管做orientation ,心情十分緊張。實習機構會問實習同學過往的經驗、預備工作給實習同學和簡單介紹實習機構的背景和運作等。其實實習同學在實習期間,不單止參與或協助機構所舉辦的活動,而且她們還要做很多反思、報告、構思實習的題材,例如小組或個案跟進等。我覺得導師的每一句話,實習同學都很著重。她們不止因為導師評分,而且她們也擔心自己的表現。導師多說一些激勵的話,不單止可以堅定實習同學的信心,而且也可以向實習同學注入希望感,使她們能堅持到底完成實習的要求。



    Submission Guidelines for Registered Social Workers 

    To allow RSWs to express their views on social work profession, the Board welcomes submissions from fellow workers. When submitting, please pay attention to the following regulations:

    1. Submissions should be related to the functions of the Board or the social work profession.

    2. Submissions do not represent the position of the Board, and the author bears the responsibility for the content.

    3. Submitters must be registered social workers and must provide their real name, mailing address, email, and contact phone number. Submitters may request not to publish their real name.

    4. Submissions can be written in Chinese or English, with a limit of 2000 Chinese characters or 1500 English words.

    5. The Board has the sole discretion to decide whether to publish submissions or not.

    6. The Board has the final editorial rights.

    7. The Board will not provide any form of remuneration to submitters.