Alexis Tam | Social service sector Human resources shortage to be countered with overseas specialists

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In response to the human resources shortage plaguing Macau’s social service sector, the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, said that Macau has the resources to import specialists from overseas to resolve short-term needs.
After visiting two civic-run centers for children and adults with intellectual disabilities yesterday, the secretary acknowledged that “all aspects of Macau’s social services need to be improved.”  He also drew attention to the lack of human resources, which he claimed “shouldn’t be an obstacle.”
“The [lack of] human resources is not an excuse or even a reason for our social services to remain insufficient and stagnant. It is unacceptable to let that affect our provision of social services,” he stressed. “We must provide scholarships to develop local specialists and of course, if there are not enough local practitioners existing, we must introduce them from outside.”
During his visit to a daycare center for mentally disabled children operated by the Parents Association of Families of the Mentally Disabled, the secretary was told that the available services for those in need is far from sufficient due to a shortage in specialized caretakers.
The parents stressed that children with special needs receive an insufficient number of hours in special education, while regular schools refused to accept them. Moreover, for the group’s focus on artistic, recreational and sports activities – regarded as crucial to their intellectual and emotional development – demand is always surpassing supply.
“If these children are not provided enough help to develop, society will eventually have to pay double to triple the costs and efforts,” one of the parents, Tang Kwok Kwong, indicated. “Society’s attitude and acceptance towards them is very important.”
Mr Tang said that the family has knocked on many doors of local schools, but they remain closed to special needs children. “Some advanced countries have carried out integrative education for the mentally disabled students, where they can engage and socialize with normal children,” he explained, further mentioning that he expects the local education system to adopt the same concept.
The association’s executive manager, Ms Liu Sio Wa, added that their services are always interrupted when specialists from Hong Kong or Taiwan need to return home after a period of time. “We suggested that local universities launch specialized majors to develop local practitioners who can cater to different needs, ranging from physical rehabilitation and caring for autism, to special education,” she said.
Ms Liu further stressed that in order to stabilize the service supply, the government should help provide better conditions and welfare to personnel employed in the disability services field so that the service institutions can attract – and, more importantly, retain – a greater number of employees. “It also needs to give space to build an artistic development center for the disabled; this is a very important concept,” she stressed.
A lack of social enterprises and vocational positions for special needs individuals to engage with is another concern among families. “My son doesn’t want to rely on our family to offer him a job position; he said he wants to test his abilities in society,” said another parent, Ms Ho. “Also there are no opportunities for further education which would mean he could develop working skills.”
The parents also complain that the families’ burdens are aggravated when the mentally disabled adults grow older. “The government will pay special attention to ‘double-aging families’ where both a mentally-disabled grownup and their parents are living into advanced age,” noted Alexis Tam, adding that “the government is stepping up to make a ten-year plan for developing social service facilities” and “will not forget disadvantaged groups.”
With the new government having held office for precisely one month, the Secretary has visited various service facilities and organizations. Tam said these organizations are “all facing a similar severe shortage in human resources.”
When inspecting the public hospital, he announced a recruitment plan of over 500 new staff for the public medical system. This immediately aroused concern from private clinics, as that they may see a staff turnover and will therefore have to compete for human resources with public hospitals.
Alexis Tam vowed that the government will provide better conditions for special education teachers, and suggested that recruiting from neighboring regions is a necessary solution to extending various special services in order to meet society’s growing demands.

Categories Macau