The East Japan Great Earthquake of March 11th in 2011 has caused tremendous human and structural damage. According to the headquarters for Emergency Disaster Control, as of May 29 in 2012, the number of deaths was 15,859, and the number of those evacuated was more than 340,000. In particular, people with special needs including the elderly, the disabled, children, and those in need of medical and social care, have faced great difficulties in obtaining information, escaping, receiving necessary care, and rebuilding daily living at shelters and temporary housing. The research shows that they are more likely to be damaged by relocation or changing of the environment.
In order to respond to such needs, various social welfare organizations and institutions have played significant roles. For example, local social welfare councils, in collaboration with local governments, have played a crucial role in assessing needs of local people, and coordinating voluntary help offered by volunteers gathered from all over Japan and around the world. Furthermore, social work and social care professional organizations have sent rescue teams and developed various projects to assist practice in the devastated areas.
The JSSSW and other related academic organizations, which have formed the Japanese Association of Social Welfare Academic Societies, have created a joint committee in order to respond to this disaster. The committee collects and shares information and makes sure that members work in collaboration and support professional social work and research effectively and efficiently in the devastated areas. The committee has also continued to monitor supportive activities conducted by member organizations together with other social care professional organizations and universities. It also sponsors symposiums on a regular basis in order to discuss, share, and evaluate academic and professional needs and necessary actions to be taken at each stage of recovery from the disaster.
Although many frontier developments have emerged in the field of social welfare and social work, there still remain unsolved issues and future tasks. The social welfare division of the Science Council of Japan discusses future tasks and publishes its recommendation report periodically. It is certain that a more effective social welfare system should be developed, which can respond to the diverse and changing needs of people at times of crisis. For instance, "DWAT" (Disaster Welfare Assistant Team) should be founded and properly trained, and disaster management should be taught in the social work educational curriculum. Also, community social work, together with local participation, should effectively be practiced in order to rebuild community. It should be noted that these efforts not only are required at the time of current crisis, but are also necessary to make our super-aged society functional and revitalized.