The welfare ministry has decided to make calls to its child abuse hotline free and increase staffing at child consultation centers, informed sources said.

The centers answer calls made to 189, the number for reporting child abuse or seeking advice on child rearing, the sources said.

The measures will be taken in fiscal 2019 at the earliest, if its budget request for the year is granted, they added.

The ministry made the hotline available 24 hours a day in July 2015. Although the centers themselves do not charge for calls, the 189 number is not toll-free.

According to a survey by the ministry, 4,166 out of the 7,673 people who called the hotline by mobile phone in May were disconnected before being transferred to child consultation centers. It also revealed that 3,454 of those callers hung up when a recorded message explained that the calls were not toll-free.

The ministry hopes that its plans to hire more answering staff will allow the consultation centers across the country to promptly respond to more child abuse cases, they said.

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