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The health ministry plans to raise subsidies for governments that bolster staff at child consultation centers to help them deal with the surge in child-support demand caused by the coronavirus, informed sources say.

The ministry hopes the move will help towns, cities and prefectures better deal with the increased risk of child abuse caused by their stay-at-home requests amid the pandemic and offer temporary shelters to children if their parents become infected, they said.

It plans to earmark about ¥4 billion in related spending in a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2020, the sources said.

The ministry plans to increase subsidies if governments increase the number of workers as well as doctors, nurses and lawyers. The workers include child welfare staffers who give support directly to children and parents.

Subsidies will also climb if governments establish new consultation centers, the sources said.

In addition, the ministry will give financial support to private groups that run children’s cafeterias and deliver meals to children, to strengthen patrols in communities.

The ministry has asked municipalities and prefectures to offer temporary shelters at child consultation centers to children whose parents become infected and have no other relatives who can take care of them.

In the meantime, the number of abuse consultations offered at child consultation centers in the January-March quarter rose 20 percent from the previous year each month.

The ministry said it is not clear whether the stay-at-home requests caused by the coronavirus triggered the rises, but some experts are concerned that abuse cases will climb as children spend prolonged periods of time at home.

Under these circumstances, the ministry has called on child consultation centers to strengthen patrol activities, including checking at least once a week on kids who need support, in cooperation with schools and private groups.

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