Children (at primary school level) without a school registration can join the service in certain special circumstances, says Department of Health

The School Dental Care Service (“SDCS”) is a health service offered by the Department of Health (“the Department”) to the majority of primary school students in Hong Kong. To meet the eligibility requirement for the SDCS scheme, the child must be aged under 18 and registered with a primary school participating in the SDCS scheme.

However, a concerning issue has recently come to our attention. Some children with special educational needs (SEN), despite their being at primary school level, are deemed ineligible for the SDCS scheme on the basis that they are not registered with a primary school. The same challenge is also faced by homeschoolers in Hong Kong. Yet, it must be recognised that this group of children do not have a school registration and are consequently ineligible for the SDCS scheme for reasons that are absolutely beyond their control. The unfortunate reality is that these children are in an agonising process of waiting for an already limited school placement which is suitable for their needs. Furthermore, the fundamental intention and goal underpinning the SDCS scheme, as stipulated in the White Paper in July 1974, is to conserve and better the dental health of children “at primary school level”. As such, the CDC is of the view that to extend the benefits of the scheme to this group of children would be a progressive and thoughtful step for the Department to take, irrespective of the procedural exclusion based on their school registration status.

In light of this issue, the Child Development Centre (“CDC”) took the initiative to bring the matter to the attention of the Department of Health and the Equal Opportunity Commission hoping to find an ideal solution for these children. After some discussion, the Department of Health and the CDC were delighted to come to the shared view that the wellbeing of these children must be a priority in our healthcare system and that maintaining this rigid procedural exclusion without having any regard to the challenges faced by these children would be detrimental to their welfare. The Department, therefore, promised that appropriate actions would be taken to address the issue.

As a result, we received an encouraging response from the Department of Health. They have now updated the eligibility criteria by expanding the remit of the SDCS scheme to include this group of children in special circumstances, provided that other eligibility criteria are also fulfilled. The CDC must express our appreciation for the Department of Health for they, in the whole process, showed incredible patience in listening to our concern and great sympathy for the children in Hong Kong. Most importantly, we were pleased to see that the Department of Health was incredibly progressive and willing with their actions in this matter. This, undoubtedly, is an inspiring reminder to us at the CDC that, with the collaborative efforts between the authorities and us, we can make a difference for the betterment of our children. This is what drives the CDC to keep up with our hard work to make our society a more inclusive place for our children.

For more information regarding the updated eligibility criteria, please refer to the section following “Please note” on the website of the School Dental Care Services: http://www.schooldental.gov.hk/wsmile/enqsch_e.jsp