August 12(Friday)

Five months since the earthquake disaster - towards a society in which no one is isolated

 

Yesterday marked the fifth month since the great earthquake disaster struck.  Even as we are moving forward with efforts towards recovery and reconstruction day in and day out, there is a matter about which I feel we must be especially concerned.  That is keeping alert for people whose 'bonds between one person and another' came to be cut off as a result of the earthquake disaster and are now experiencing isolation from others.

 

How should we involve people in society who are living in isolation?  'Social inclusion' is one of the major themes that I have set forth since before the earthquake disaster struck, beginning with the policy speech to the Diet I delivered immediately after becoming Prime Minister.  It was just the day before yesterday that the Task Force Team for a Society Inclusive of Individuals that I had commissioned announced their urgent policy proposals.

 

During New Year's day the year before last, I was at the "dispatch workers' New Year's village" in Hibiya Park.  It was Mr. Makoto Yuasa as the "village chief" who was involving himself in poverty issues with everything he had.  At around the same time, I came to get to know Mr. Yasuyuki Shimizu, head of the NPO "Lifelink," which has for many years been taking on the issue of suicide full on.  It is only through the real-life expeiences of people taking this kind of hands-on approach, rather than through academic discussions, that one comes to find the way out of the isolation problem.  It was with this belief that I asked these two to serve as the backbone of the Task Force Team.  With Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama serving as Chair, this Task Force Team emerged with these recommendations through roughly seven months of deliberations and repeated visits to the disaster-struck areas, among other efforts.

 

How does the risk of individuals being excluded from society spread within our society, and what sort of linkages exist?  First of all we must conduct a thorough fact-finding survey on those matters, examining them squarely.

 

Of course, various support systems have been in place until now, but if we look carefully at the actual situation, it is not the case that all people are covered seamlessly.  For example, there are young people who drop out of high school and have no place where they belong.  If opportunities were provided for someone to reach out to them and talk with them, then new developments might begin in their lives.  We will set the lead in creating a personal support system for each such person individually, first by exploring model cases.

 

Furthermore, what I brought up when I attended the first meeting of this Task Force Team was the establishment of a national call center. This would be a "one-stop" center that would conduct consultations by telephone, listen to people's worries, provide concern, and then conduct follow-up activities. I had the Team take up a deeper consideration of this as steps towards bringing such an undertaking into reality.

 

While these recommendations are not operations in which a huge budget is mobilized, they are quite "major" undertakings in light of their importance. I am very pleased that they compiled their findings during my term as Prime Minister. Notably, within our future work to bring about reconstruction, I would like them to substantiate a model of "social inclusion" within the disaster-affected areas in particular. Providing a solid budget for this in the third supplementary budget, I would like them to foster the "buds" of building up such a society. This is my fervent wish as we work to bring about a society in which no one is excluded.



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