Abuse of Support System for Disabled Children must not be Overlooked

There has been a series of cases in which operators of “after-school day services” used by children with disabilities made fraudulent claims for compensation. The central and local governments should strengthen their surveillance of such operators.

After-school day services are a system under the Child Welfare Law in which facilities designated by local governments look after children with developmental or intellectual disabilities who attend elementary, junior high and high schools or special needs schools, taking care of them after school or on holidays. Facility staff provide support for such activities as crafts and exercise, with the aim of helping children to improve the ability to lead their daily lives.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, 179 facilities have been subject to administrative punishment since 2012 for fraudulent claims totaling about ¥1.7 billion. The facilities falsified employee work records and the number of days children used the service to inflate their total fees.

Facilities charge about ¥10,000 per use, 90% of which is paid by the central and local governments. This is an unscrupulous act of using the support system for disabled children to swindle public funds.

It is only natural that the punished facilities have been asked to return the inflated part of the compensation they received or had their designation revoked. It should be dealt with strictly.

The number of facilities offering after-school day services has increased year by year to 15,000. Likewise, the number of users has surpassed 200,000. With increasing calls for places where disabled children can spend time, companies have started to enter the field one after another, in addition to the social welfare corporations and other organizations that have normally provided this kind of service. It has also been argued that there has been an increase in the number of businesses seeking profits from the service.

Are there any other facilities that are involved in such wrongdoing? The central and local governments should conduct thorough investigations.

The central government urges local governments to provide on-the-spot guidance once every three years, but local governments have been unable to cope with the rapid increase in the number of facilities. The Tokyo metropolitan government has reportedly never given guidance to one service provider that illegally received a total of about ¥300 million from public coffers at its seven facilities.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has not been able to fully grasp the situation involving the administrative penalties imposed by local governments and the amount of fraudulent claims. It is necessary to promptly collect information on the penalties imposed by local governments and utilize the information to take measures against unscrupulous operators.

The quality of the facilities’ services is also a concern. Some facilities have users only watch TV or play games. In addition to abuse by staff members, there was a case in which the manager of a facility had a girl clean a doghouse at the manager’s home.

The more staffers a facility has providing careful support, the more difficult that facility is to operate. The central government should consider introducing a system in which the amount of compensation is determined based on the quality of service.

The rampant spread of unscrupulous facilities should not lead to the failure of excellent facilities.

It is difficult for users to detect unscrupulous facilities right away. It is important for the central and local governments to properly disclose information on fact-finding investigations and administrative punishments.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 28, 2021.