Japan to Bolster Support for Young Carers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Leaflets provide information regarding counseling services for young carers

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will bolster support for young carers — children and young people who take care of family members on a daily basis — from next fiscal year, according to sources.

The ministry will include its plan in the draft of a new basic guideline that will determine the policy direction of the government’s long-term care insurance program, the sources said.

The draft is set to be presented at a health ministry subcommittee meeting on Monday. Local governments, which implement long-term care insurance services, will reflect the support policy in their service-implementation plans and expand consultation opportunities for young carers.

It is the first time for the health ministry to use its guideline to indicate support for young carers, who often take care of family members such as parents or grandparents with illness and physical difficulties. It will state that “it is important to support family caregivers, including young carers of elderly people with dementia.”

The guideline is designed to encourage local governments to introduce measures aimed at reducing the burden of young carers ahead of 2025, when the first baby-boomer generation — which presently comprises about 5.9 million individuals — reaches the age of 75 or older.

Local governments review their care-service plans in conjunction with the revision of the long-term care insurance law, which occurs once every three years. The next such plan will cover the period from fiscal 2024-2026.

It is said that young carers have limited time for study and extracurricular activities and often have difficulty building relationships with their peers. They may also be physically and mentally burdened without even realizing it and may not be able to share their troubles and consequently fall ill.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has already started taking measures to support young carers at school, working toward establishing a system in which certified social workers and other qualified personnel can provide counseling.

In line with the new guideline, the health ministry will encourage local governments to strengthen from next fiscal year counseling services at community support centers that provide support for the elderly. The ministry will also urge local governments to work with local social welfare commissioners and others to provide support.

Besides young-carer support, the health ministry will also include in the new basic guideline the concept of developing a system for providing long-term care services that meets local needs, considering differences in the pace of decline and population aging in urban and rural areas.

The basic guideline will further state that “it is important to consider” the arrangement of existing nursing care facilities and relevant offices.

Additionally, the guideline will also touch upon the significance of efforts to resume operations at places where local elderly people can gather informally, and which serve as locations where efforts are made to prevent elderly people from requiring nursing care. Activities at such facilities were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.