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Social work requires patience and empathy

Drug trafficking, teenage pregnancy, suicide, bullying – the list of the city’s youth problems is endless, and schools and parents must join hands to tackle them. Social workers are the bridge between schools and families to help students get back on the right track.

Social workers can be employed by social service groups such as the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) and Caritas, and then be assigned to work at schools, or they can be employed directly by schools.

In 2000, the profession got a boost when the government spent a lot of money on its “one school social worker for each secondary school” policy.

“Teaching staff will refer students to be counselled and the social worker will also discover cases on their own,” says Carrie Leung, unit in charge for school social work at HKFYG.

“Counselling is done individually or in groups. The social worker also needs to be in contact with the student’s parents, teachers and classmates to find the best way to help,” she says.

Social workers also lead personal growth development activities, such as civil education, sex education seminars and leadership training. They need to love working with people, and be caring and proactive.

“A social worker has to be patient to handle demands from students, parents and the school authority. Things can be complicated if the students or family refuse the social worker’s assistance,” says Leung.

Social workers based in schools work from 9am to 5pm, but may need to do overtime shifts occasionally. They must register with the social workers’ registration board, and have a bachelor’s degree in social work.

After some years of experience on the frontline, the next step is as a team leader, supervising other social workers and handling administration duties.