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Health ministry plans to make child abuse hotline free of charge next fiscal year

Counselors answer phone calls at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's child consultation center in the capital's Shinjuku Ward on Aug. 10, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has decided to request a total of some 165 billion yen to fight child abuse in the budget for fiscal 2019, including funds to make a hotline for child abuse consultation and reporting free of charge.

The ministry wants to make the hotline free because many callers hang up before they are connected to proper counselors due to a pre-recorded announcement telling callers that they will be required to pay toll charges. Officials hope that making the hotline easier to use will enable them to collect information to prevent abuse.

The hotline number, 189, can be voiced as "ichihayaku" in Japanese, which means "as soon as possible." The service receives some 20,000 calls per month from across the nation, but about 80 percent of calls are disconnected before they reach local child consultation centers responsible for the areas from which the calls originate. Increasing the ratio of successful calls was one of the goals mentioned in the government's emergency comprehensive countermeasures against child abuse.

The ministry also intends to launch a program to support measures to improve information sharing among organizations responding to child abuse. Under the program, the ministry would subsidize local governments to establish systems where prefectural and child consultation center officials could access relevant data.

(Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Medical Welfare News Department)

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