In this spotlight profile, we are speaking to Vicky Lau, Mediator.
Vicky Lau is an experienced social work practitioner in Hong Kong. She is driven to pursue dignity living for low-income groups which stems from her passion for assisting these individuals with their finances and housing related issues. Vicky has been working in the community development field for 13 years and maintains a keen interest in advocating long term policy changes.
Vicky is now responsible for several housing projects planning and co-ordination.
Vicky, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and training?
My work has centered around social work and family mediation. I have worked as a social worker for the last 13 years. One of the key areas which I focus on is community development, namely with housing projects in Hong Kong and the low-income group of individuals living in squatter areas such as subdivided flats, transitional housing and other public housing.
When we work on cases with this group of individuals, we engage with them and help them through any struggles they may have especially related to family issues such as divorce. It is during these moments that I will use my family mediation experience and skills to help them with conflict management.
Let’s first dive into your work as an accredited family mediator. What type of family mediation are you typically involved in?
Most of the cases I assist individuals with is divorce. The major issues they have is that they are not privy to information and/or resources. Individuals, particular in the low-income group do not know where to start and they ask for help on how to engage in the divorce process. I assist by providing them with resources and helping them apply for legal aid.
Part of the assistance I can also provide is helping these family members engage in mediation and to speak to them about their issues and see if we can do anything to resolve the issues at hand.
What are some of the central themes/issues that you are seeing in couples in Hong Kong?
Most of the clients I deal with argue about finances as they are from the low-income sector. As living expenses continue to rise and especially individuals with children, their income is not sufficient to cover their daily living costs. Arguments begin due to the stresses related to finances and maintaining a living. The low-income group sector generally do not have the funds to hire domestic helpers and in most cases, the mother takes on the primary role of being a full-time housewife while the father is the sole breadwinner. Due to the imbalance of economic positions, these couples will argue over daily chores, finances and with such a small space, they do not have room to take breaks from one another. The only option for breaks is to go outside or out to the street. The stress upon these individuals is very high.
What practical exercises/advice do you give to couples going through marriage difficulties?
First off, I will assist these individuals to apply for resources. For example, there are subsidies available from the government which are difficult to apply for but once approved, the money is good for these families. I like to help these families apply for such grants because it provides the families with some relief from the financial situation. For those individuals going through a divorce, I can assist them with filing for divorce and providing resources to file for divorce including applying for legal aid.
When I am working with these families, I like to teach them micro-skills to help ease any conflict they may have especially in such small spaces. For example, simple methods of creating space and boundaries are important. One of the main skills I like to provide advice on is communication skills. For example, I like to talk to families about how to rephrase their thoughts so that they can get the same point across but with a different tone.
What about children…what practical exercise/advice do you give to children who are going through the same difficulties?
It depends on the age of the children, but I always like to offer my social work and mediation experience to children depending on whether they are willing to accept it.
One of the main issues I see with children is tackling the emotional aspect of divorce. When parents get divorced in the Chinese traditional culture, the children will know that the parents have a bad relationship but they do not necessarily have any concept of divorce or the process of one parent moving out. Many times, the traditional Chinese families do not talk about divorce to the children and sometimes will lie about what is actually happening. I always like to tell parents that it is vitally important that they tell the children about the divorce and remain transparent about it because in reality, children already know that something is wrong. Even if they cannot express in words what they are seeing, they can feel it. Children also see the conflict happening in the household so it is important for parents to talk about it with the children so they are not left in the dark about what is going to happen. I always like to remind parents that it is important to speak with the children about the divorce (but not adult-related matters) and relieve what the child is worried about. Many times, divorce will impact a child’s future long-term romantic relationships and if it is not dealt with properly as a child, they will have trust issues in their adult relationships or create the same relationship pattern as their parents in their adult relationships. The ideal is for a child to have a future romantic relationship where it is peace and solution-based focused rather than a conflict approach basis.
About Vicky Lau, Mediator
Vicky was educated at the Hong Kong Baptist University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work and a Master’s degree of Arts in Communication (Concentration: Integrated Communication Management). Also, Vicky has been an accredited mediator since 2010 and attained accredited family mediator status in 2018.
Vicky is currently working at a local NGO and received the 2019 Best Practice Award in Social Welfare issued by The Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) for a public housing project.
If you would like to get in touch with Vicky, you can contact her at the following email address –