Current issues about social welfare studies

Recently, the necessity of treating new issues of social welfare is becoming more urgent. Most such issues tend to appear out of the existing institutional frameworks of social welfare services, or extend to several institutions, therefore, the JSSSW are required to see them from a wide perspective and contribute to the development of flexible system management or create new services and approaches. The examples given below are some of the typical issues.

1) Ill-treatment of children and the elderly

In order to protect children from ill-treatment, the Child Abuse Prevention Law was enacted in 2000. The number of victims dealt with by the Child Consultation Center has expanded four-fold in the last decade. The law defines the patterns of child abuse as: 1) physical abuse, 2) sexual abuse, 3) neglect, 4) psychological abuse. Since the law has been enforced, the cooperation of ordinary citizens in the early detection of ill-treatment became a duty, as well as specialists close to the abused children, such as doctors, teachers and staffs in child welfare facilities.

The Elderly Abuse Prevention Law became operative in 2006. This law also defines abuses of elders as: 1) physical abuse, 2) abandonment and neglect of nursing care and looking after elders, 3) psychological abuse, 4) sexual abuse, 5) extraction of elders’ estates. On a legal basis, social workers are requested: 1) to prevent elders from ill-treatment and to support them continuously until their lives are stabilized; 2) to respect and pay serious attention to their will; 3) to make approaches to society to keep ill-treatment from occurring; 4) to detect and cope with ill-treatment swiftly; 5) to support not only elders but their protectors; and 6) to correspond as a team in cooperation with other institutions concerned.

2) Domestic violence

According to the increase in the number of domestic violence (DV) cases, The Act on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims was put into operation in 2001. In the law, Women’s Consultation Offices (established in each prefecture) are stipulated as Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Centers, and are required to offer consultation, assistance and provide temporary care.

For the improvement of services for victims, those institutes execute: 1) consultation on holidays and at night; 2) making network with other institutions concerned; 3) training for the staff members; 4) placement of a staff in charge of psychotherapy; 5) employing night guards; 6) taking victims into temporary protective custody as the Livelihood Support Facilities for Mothers and Children, the Private Shelters for Domestic Violence Victims; 7) placement of a childcare official for the accompanied children to temporary care center; 8) taking legal advice and support by lawyers; and 9) furnishing personal reference when the victims need to exchange written contracts for finding jobs or houses for rent.

3) Solitary death

Lack of mingling with neighbors is becoming more and more serious in Japan, and one typical consequence of this trend is incidence of solitary death. The number of cases of dying alone is increasing especially in urban districts. This situation has prompted the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to implement its government undertakings to promote solitary death prevention. Also several local governments, as prefectures and ordinance-designated cities, are attempting activities for promotion and enlightenment, model enterprises etc.

4) Emerging new patterns of poverty because of the disparate society

We have a definite worldwide tide of economic recession, which brought serious stratifies caused by the income gap. Even the labor policies, which include the deregulation of employment, could widen the gap. While the rates of job availability are slightly decreasing in the past few decades, the unemployment rates are increasing.

As a result of social stratification, specific patterns of poverty, which could be characterized differently from conventional homeless or low-income earners, appeared: as N.E.E.T (people with no employment, education or training), young and middle-age people who live in internet cafes (can be used as one-night accommodations) called ‘Net-cafe Refugees’, permanent part-timers called ‘Freeter’, and withdrawn young people. Because of their distinguishing features, they are also termed "poverty in social relationship". Now services and approaches from broad perspectives on employment, residence, mental health and building human relations are needed.

In order to sort out these issues, theoretical contributions are required of the JSSSW, which give practical suggestions to social welfare. We can see some trends of studies: Firstly, studies on outcome evaluation and effectiveness analysis of practitioners, approached from clients’ point of view; secondly, studies on social policy and its management, and service providing system or institutions; and thirdly, methodological studies about social work and its approaches.

These studies are still in progress, so now let us consider two significant practical possibilities of recent focus: 1) generalists’ social work in various fields, which appears with new skills such as: social work in schools, rehabilitation and assistance for employment; 2) community care for elders who need nursing care, clients who are leaving hospitals or welfare institutions, disabled people who are involved in social reintegration.