OSAKA – Under the leadership of Mayor Toru Hashimoto, the city of Osaka is starting a program to reduce the number of children waiting to get into nursery centers.
The program involves the establishment of a “human resource bank,” or a pool of child care workers who will accept children aged up to 2 years old in their homes.
After completing the required training course, the workers will register with the organization. The heads of health and welfare centers in the city’s wards will then match them with parents in need of the service.
A total of 235 men and women signed up for the training when the city solicited applicants in May, double the number expected.
The elimination of waiting lists for nursery centers is one of the pledges made by Hashimoto in his election campaign in 2011. While an estimated 46,000 children are on nursery center waiting lists across Japan, the program is projected to reduce the number in Osaka by about 250 each year.
“We must have an abundance of child care services so that they can be provided to all people in need,” Katsuya Tada, head of the child care planning section in the Osaka Municipal Government, quoted the mayor as saying.
Under a program launched by the municipal government in fiscal 2006, companies operating certified nursery centers for children in the city are commissioned to provide day care services for kids aged up to 2 by a group of care providers, including in the homes of the workers.
However, parents initially voiced dissatisfaction with the program due to the unavailability of day care centers for their children. It appears they have now begun to appreciate the home environment offered by the new system.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 20 home-based child care providers in Osaka looked after a total of 100 children in fiscal 2011, compared with 283 looking after 723 kids in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, and 119 watching 370 children in Yokohama.
In addition to the group-based child care program that started in fiscal 2006, the Osaka Municipal Government will introduce the new program involving members of the human resource bank at 50 locations this fiscal year, with hopes of cutting the waiting list to zero. As of April, 664 children in the city were waiting to be accepted by day care centers.
Nevertheless, there are concerns about the new program because of its closed nature. In 2007, for example, a girl was found to have been ill-treated by a home provider in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
With this in mind, the Osaka Municipal Government has adopted a set of countermeasures. These include having nurseries provide support for the providers, and someone with more than 10 years of experience will visit them at least once a week. Additionally, problematic care providers will lose their certification.
The city hopes to provide “child care services above a certain standard” by creating environments in which care workers can receive advice, Tada said.