Support eyed for young carers; LDP’s upper-house election decision may affect 3-party work

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and the Democratic Party for the People discuss the issue of young carers at the Diet building on May 19.

The Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and the Democratic Party for the People have agreed to establish a conceptual law to promote support for children and young people who take care of family members on a daily basis.

The envisaged law to help young carers likely will detail central and local government responsibilities. The three parties will draw up an outline for the law prior to the House of Councillors election in summer, with an eye on submitting it as lawmaker-initiated legislation to the extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

A related working-level meeting at the Diet building on May 19 was attended by former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura of the ruling LDP, upper house lawmaker Takae Ito of its junior coalition Komeito and DPFP Vice President Takae Ito.

“The three parties have reached a consensus on studying the issue and the need for legislation,” Tamura said following the talks. Those involved will compile a report in the near future and submit it to the secretaries general of the three parties.

Young-carer support is the next item for discussion on the parties’ agenda, after measures to deal with soaring crude oil prices. The parties have already agreed to expand the subsidy program as a measure to curb rising prices of gasoline and other commodities.

Discussions have continued over whether to invoke a trigger clause that would temporarily cut gasoline taxes.

The DPFP has strongly demanded the clause be activated. By bringing the DPFP into the ruling bloc ahead of the upper house election, the government and the LDP had been hoping to divide the opposition parties.

A number of LDP executive members have posited that the party forgo fielding a candidate in the upper house contest in the Yamagata constituency — where only one seat is up for grabs — with the DPFP incumbent running for office again. The proposal was made in consideration of the DPFP, with which the LDP has slowly been strengthening its alliance over policies.

However, the idea of fielding an LDP candidate in the constituency has been gaining traction within the party. If the LDP were to field a candidate, the move would likely affect policy discussions among the three parties.

Some experts say young carers’ health and schoolwork suffer due to their having insufficient time to sleep and study. The government has designated a three-year period starting from this fiscal year to work on the issue. The three parties hope to leverage the legislation to address a perceived disparity in support among local governments and increase the effectiveness of the help provided.

In February, the DPFP submitted a bill to the upper house aimed at amending the Child Welfare Law to include measures for young carers. The bill, which includes carrying out regular fact-finding surveys, is expected to serve as a foundation for future legislation.

To clarify the target of support, the definition of a “young carer” will be carefully considered when drafting the bill. Attention will likely focus on whether the bill will cover government financial measures.

The three parties also plan to launch a framework as early as June to discuss measures to address customer harassment. The DPFP has insisted on the need for concrete steps to deal with the issue. The party submitted a bill to the upper house on May 19 that specifies the formulation of a basic government policy and the need to conduct regular surveys to ascertain the situation.