organisations”.238 These services were available in the 62 Family Services Centres run by non-governmental agencies and Social Welfare Department. These centres are convenient to major housing centres. Additional case workers were being recruited.
2.178The government was also committed to make information on marriage counselling and mediation services more available and accessible to potential clients. The information would be available at the Divorce Registry, Legal Aid offices, Police stations, the Social Welfare Department, District Offices, relevant non-governmental organisations and legal practitioners in the family law area. Since 1994, 19 Family Activity and Resource Centres have been established as drop-in centres for families. A Family Care Demonstration and Resource Centre was established in 1994 to give practical skills to married couples in small group sessions on family care and home management.
2.179It is understood that the Social Welfare Department will be in a better position to offer mediation for custody or other disputes arising from a divorce once some of their social welfare officers complete their training as professionally qualified mediators in 1998. The Health and Welfare Bureau have given a policy commitment in the 1997 Policy Address that a mediation service will be established in 1998-1999 in the Child Custody Services Unit to help divorcing and separating couples to resolve disputes over matters of child custody or access.
Hong Kong community mediation programmes
2.180Three community agencies now operate family mediation services, the Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council (HKCMAC), Hong Kong Family Welfare Society239 and the Resource Mediation Service.240 The HKCMAC run a counselling/mediation service out of the Kowloon Office of the Legal Aid Department one and a half days a week and a part-time service in the Hong Kong Island Legal Aid Office.
2.181McInnis stated that the link to the legal system had been strengthened by the HKCMAC project in the Legal Aid Department which could receive referrals directly from the Legal Aid Scheme.241 The objective of the establishment of the HKCMAC service in the Legal Aid Department was “to divert applicants for legal aid from the court at an early stage”.242 The HKCMAC project was introduced as a three year pilot project funded by the Jockey Club and was estimated to cost HK$300,000 in the first year. Its objective was to help couples separate without bitterness and resolve custody and property matters. The then assistant director of the Applications and Processing Division of the Legal Aid Department said that the scheme should
238 This statement of the Department that it has a mediation service must have been intended to refer to mediation in an informal sense of trying to reach a settlement with the assistance of a social worker. It cannot mean formal mediation, as none of their workers at that time had been trained as mediators.
239 A Divorce Mediation Service was established in March 1997.
240 This is attached to the Resource Counselling Centre, formerly known as the Marriage and Personal Counselling Service, which operates in Central.
241 McInnis, “Alternative Dispute Resolution” in Wacks(ed), The Future of the Law in Hong Kong, 405 (1993).
242 McInnis, idem.