The government plans to set up a task force with the aim of encouraging cities with populations of 200,000 or more to establish child counseling centers at a time when the number of consultations related to child abuse is increasing.

The planned task force will also include representatives from such cities and prefectural governments, sources said.

Prefectures, along with ordinance-designated major cities with populations of 500,000 or more, are already required to have child consultation centers.

Among the 54 cities with populations of 200,000 or more, only two — Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture — have set up such centers.

The city of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture and the city of Nara are slated to open child consultation centers next month and in fiscal 2021, respectively.

Cities hoping to open child consultation centers need to foster counselors — for example, through on-site training at existing centers — in cooperation with their prefectural governments.

Issues related to such training and other matters will likely be discussed by the envisioned task force, according to the sources. Details will be worked out at a later.

During work to draft a bill to revise the child welfare law, some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had called for obliging cities with populations of 200,000 or more to set up child consultation centers, but the proposal was not adopted.

The government instead opted to create the task force to encourage such cities to establish the centers.

The legal amendment is expected to be adopted by the Cabinet as early as Tuesday.

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