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Ministry doubles budget request for car accident victims left with serious disabilities

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has doubled its request for its fiscal 2019 budget to shoulder part of personnel and other costs of group homes and residential facilities for people left with serious, long-term disabilities from traffic accidents, according to ministry officials.

The request totaling some 298 million yen -- about twice the 149 million yen the ministry allocated for this fiscal year -- reflects the ministry's thinking that more needs to be done to support those people whose family members, especially parents, are worried about their loved ones' futures after their demise. By spending more on this area, the ministry hopes to encourage group homes and other facilities to provide better, long-term services for those with such disabilities as persistent disturbance of consciousness, where they cannot communicate with others.

A ministry survey in June covering caregivers for car accident survivors with serious disabilities found that about 54.4 percent of the 2,291 respondents are aged in their 60s or older. About 61 percent were positive about the idea of sending their dependents to group homes and other facilities with sufficient medical equipment in case the respondents become too old to provide care at home. Some 31.2 percent were negative about the idea, claiming that they had not given enough thought to the issue or saying that they intended to depend on helpers or relatives, among other reasons.

Meanwhile, only around 0.4 percent of group homes and some 23.3 percent of residential facilities across Japan -- except the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido -- had people with serious, long-term disabilities such as persistent disturbance of consciousness, according to other ministry surveys from fiscal 2014 through 2017. Only about 1.9 percent of group homes said they can conduct phlegm clearing on such patients while about 30.1 percent of other facilities said they could carry out such assistance.

These survey results indicate that the lack of sufficient medical services at those facilities is preventing car accident survivors from settling in.

For fiscal 2018, the transport ministry has allocated 148.9 million yen for relevant facilities, using funds from mandatory vehicle liability insurance programs. Of the total, up to 10.8 million yen per year per facility was used to support personnel costs, and up to 4 million yen per year per venue was provided for the purchase of medical equipment such as beds designed to help caregivers perform their duties. Expenses to cover medical care training for workers were also covered. One group home and 22 facilities were selected for the ministry subsidies through a public offering program.

Yuji Kuwayama, who heads a national group of families who have members with serious, long-term disabilities including brain damage, pointed out that many people in their community don't know about the subsidy program. "The ministry should publicize the system more, and make efforts to improve the support program by reflecting the results of interviews with operators of group homes and facilities with advanced, good practices," Kuwayama said.

(Japanese original by Masayoshi Esashi, City News Department)

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