LDP OK’s adding ‘family’ to name of planned agency for children

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of groups including the Liberal Democratic Party’s Headquarters for Creating Bright Future Society for Children and Young People attend a joint meeting Wednesday at party headquarters in Tokyo.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party approved Wednesday the government’s basic policy proposal on a new agency to be in charge of children’s affairs, giving a green light to a name change from the originally planned “child agency” to “child and family agency.”

The name was altered apparently in consideration of conservative members in the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito, but the move caused frustration among some LDP members.

The government presented the draft of the basic policy at a joint meeting of groups including the LDP Headquarters for Creating Bright Future Society for Children and Young People.

With the decision left to senior executives of the headquarters, Katsunobu Kato, former chief cabinet secretary who chaired the meeting, said: “Support for families is indispensable to realize a society centered on children, which the party aims to create. Let us allow the name to be ‘child and family agency.’”

The draft policy stated that a full-time minister will be assigned at the new agency, which will oversee affairs regarding childcare facilities, among other policies. Divisions of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Cabinet Office that are currently in charge of those facilities will be abolished. The new agency will work together with the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which oversees preschools, to formulate educational content.

The government aims to have the draft policy approved by the Cabinet by the end of the year. To establish the envisaged agency in fiscal 2023, it plans to submit related bills to the ordinary Diet session next year.

The new agency had been tentatively called a “child agency” in the government since discussions started during the administration of former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Wednesday’s change to include the word “family” was intended to clarify the agency’s role in supporting parents and other guardians who are often isolated from society during the period of child-rearing. Conservative members of the party had voiced opinions that the responsibility to raise children should lie with families.

At the meeting, some members opposed including the word “family” in the name, saying that consideration should be given to children who have lost their parents or who have been abused by them, as well as those who live in orphanages.

Komeito also approved the draft policy on the day. The party had pledged to establish a child and family agency during the House of Representatives election campaign in October.

The now defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which has become part of the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, once tried to create a child and family ministry. “Including the word family in the name will give us broader support from both the ruling and opposition parties,” a former cabinet minister from the LDP said.

“The decision was made after not only our conservative members but also Komeito were involved,” an LDP member, who had promoted the “child agency” name, said with regret.