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Care for Carers|Support Child Carer in COVID-19 Pandemic

Care for Carer|Support to Child Carer

The "Care for Carers" Support to Child Carers Focus Group (the Focus Group) expresses concerns over the government's latest territory-wide suspension of face-to-face classes for kindergarten and junior primary students in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic and the outbreak of upper respiratory tract infections.


While we appreciate that suspension of face-to-face classes would reduce social contact in a bid to safeguard children's health, the Focus Group also urges the government to carefully consider the difficult circumstances surrounding child carers and to ensure adequate support is provided to them, especially grass-root double-income carers and single-parent carers.


With face-to-face classes suspended, schools have to switch once again to online teaching.  However, e-learning equipment is still inadequate for grass-root children, especially kindergarten students, who fall outside the service scope of most existing e-learning support programs.  These worries are proven in a recent survey, in which over 60% of grass-root parents feel guilty for not being able to afford sufficient equipment to facilitate their children's e-learning.  In this connection, the Focus Group recommends subsidizing grass-root families for their acquisition of items necessary for e-learning such as internet service SIM cards, Wifi eggs, and computers.  As regards the closure of libraries and other public facilities, which limited access by grass-root children and carers to public learning resources, we recommend posting parent-child picture books to address their reading needs.


Amidst the epidemic, going out has become all the more difficult for carers.  Visiting crowded places like markets with a toddler would entail increased health risks, thus usual routines such as buying food and daily supplies are now a new source of pressure on carers, in addition to the already stressful all-day housework and caring.  To alleviate their burden, the Focus Group recommends exploring cross-sector cooperation regarding cooked food order and delivery services, whereby commercial online platforms for daily goods and food delivery would provide a certain quota of discounts via charitable organizations for grass-root families in need to receive food and daily supplies by their delivery services.


Furthermore, the community should not overlook the importance of physical and mental support to child carers.  When a wide range of social services are suspended due to the epidemic, carers lost an important helping hand and shoulder heavier burdens.  The government should deploy additional resources to enhance both physical and psychological support services for carers, for example, to develop online services that can continue to support carers during the epidemic so that carers know that their needs are acknowledged.  At the same time, families should be more accommodating to carers' difficulties and feelings during the epidemic.  They should render emotional support as well as actual assistance, such as taking turns in providing care to relieve each other's burden, helping to buy daily necessities, showing recognition of the carers' contribution, and encouraging them to address their emotional needs.  Wherever necessary, carers and families should not hesitate to take an extra step in seeking assistance from schools and social welfare organizations which are still in service for urgent support.


The government's emergency support service should serve as a safety net during the epidemic. Emergency and essential services must remain in operation, particularly the social security branches, in order to process urgent reliefs for families in dire economic need, to provide domestic violence victims with interim accommodation such as subsidies for short-term hotel leases, to set up an Emergency Relief Fund for Families in Crises under the Anti-Epidemic Fund, and to support the needs of unpaid workers and carers in addition to those of businesses and employees.