174th Diet, House of Representatives, Health, Labor and Welfare Committee #20

House of Representatives, Health, Labor and Welfare Committee #20 (May 14th, 2010)

112 Mr. Hiroshi Hase

As you know, under the Child Welfare Law, there are after-school children’s clubs, which are generally referred to as school-age care.

As you know, under the Child Welfare Law, there are after-school children’s clubs, which are generally referred to as “childcare for school children,” but the issue is about places for school children and elementary school children to stay after school, as well as places for them to stay on holidays and national holidays. There are a lot of city councilors who have been making such petitions.

Even now, it is possible to use the premises and facilities of elementary schools. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which is a very stubborn ministry, has been relaxing the facility standards. I believe that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) should make more efforts to improve the treatment of instructors, and since it is a place for children, the safety of the facilities and the after-school care for children with disabilities is what is needed now.

Considering this, I have been shouting in the Liberal Democratic Party that we must legislate for the provision of childcare for school children, but they have not been able to include it in their manifesto. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology do not have the authority to establish standards for instructors and facilities, and to manage safety.

I know I’m not doing enough, but I will do my best, but what do you think, Minister?

113 Akira Nagatsuma

We call them after-school children’s clubs now, but if you look at elementary schools, the implementation rate is not yet 10%, and there are some elementary schools that do not have such clubs, so the first thing we should do is to ask for such clubs, and if there are obstacles, we should make efforts to remove them.

Then, in the Five-Year Plan of the Child-rearing Vision, which was approved by the Cabinet at the beginning of this year, it was decided to increase the number of after-school children’s clubs from the current capacity of 810,000 to a target of 1,100,000 by the year 2016. The current capacity is one for every five children in grades one through three, but the goal is to increase the capacity to one for every three children in five years.

There is also the often-heard issue of the “first-grade barrier,” where day-care centers take care of children until nightfall to some extent, but once they enter elementary school, the after-school children’s clubs start operating earlier in the evening, so some parents have no choice but to change their jobs. I would like to work on not only the cash provision but also the in-kind provision.

114 Mr. Hiroshi Hase

However, I would like the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr. Kawabata, to make a strong statement about this enhancement. We can use the grounds and facilities of elementary schools. With a little renovation, they can be used to the fullest. Parents would be relieved. Elementary schools are basically within walking distance of first graders, right? It’s also the best environment for school-age childcare.

However, it is also necessary to promote the idea that it is possible to provide such services in elementary schools and that the facilities can be fully used. I would like to strongly emphasize that the current situation should not be left unattended.

Lastly, I would like to conclude my answer by mentioning another issue regarding the measures to support single-parent families. Currently, there is a very active movement to legislate joint custody after divorce and a movement to demand visitation and exchange with children by parents who do not have parental or custodial rights after divorce. I have also been working on the issue of joint custody and the right to visitation and interview.

I would like the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to deepen its awareness of this movement and to support it, and I would like the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work on this issue as well, since it is also related to the Hague Convention. So, I would like you to work on this.

I would like to ask the Minister what he thinks about this, and then I will conclude my question.

115 Akira Nagatsuma

First of all, with regard to the current point, the Ministry of Justice is currently considering amendments to the Civil Code, and I have heard that they are considering whether or not to include this in the amendments.

As you mentioned, even if the parents divorce, the relationship between parent and child remains the same for the child, and as long as it does not harm the welfare of the child, it is desirable for parents and children who are separated to meet each other for the sake of the child’s growth.

However, we need to think carefully about how far we should go in imposing rules or laws on this matter, and if necessary, we would like to express our opinions to the Ministry of Justice on how to revise the Civil Code.

116 Mr. Hiroshi Hase

I don’t think I can accept the answer you just gave.

I don’t think it’s acceptable to talk about divorced families. In most cases, the mother has custody. The mother has custody of the child, and when the father doesn’t pay child-support, she tells him all the bad things she can say about him. Of course, they don’t want to let him see the child. On the other hand, even if the father is paying child support, there are various circumstances involved in divorce between a man and a woman, between a husband and a wife, so they don’t say nice things about him, and they don’t want him to see them.

However, when it comes to support for single-parent families, we believe that although the issue of benefits is directly related to support for parents, it is essentially about protecting the best interests of the child. I think it is very important for children to be aware of the fact that they can see both parents and that they are loved by their parents even after divorce. Unfortunately, this is not possible under the current Civil Code, which provides for sole custody. In a sense, there are academic societies that recognize that not allowing a single parent to see the other parent is abuse.

I would like to ask again for your views on this and other issues, but I would like to conclude my questions for today. Thank you very much for your time.

117 Mr. Osamu Fujimura

Next, Mr. Hideaki Omura.

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