News : Welfare Ministry to Improve Child Abuse Hotline with New Call Center
Tokyo Japan, Feb 6, 2017 -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has decided to set up a special call center to handle telephone calls reporting or consulting about child abuse cases, after its current "189" hotline was found to be too slow.
Under the current "189" number -- which is a nationwide telephone service that can connect with child consultation centers -- many callers from mobile phones have been hanging up due to the long waiting times until connection with a consultant, which can sometimes be around two minutes.
By switching from the current recorded voice system to a call center-based operator system, the welfare ministry hopes to reduce the waiting time to approximately 30 seconds, and thereby improve the connection rate. The new system is scheduled to be introduced as early as autumn 2017.
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Previously, the welfare ministry provided a 10-digit number for its child abuse reporting line (0570-064-000), but later simplified it to "189" in July 2015, promoting it with the witty slogan "ichihayaku" -- which means "swiftly" and is also a play on words. As a result, the number of callers rapidly increased, but the percentage of callers who actually managed to connect with a child consultation center was very low, at about 10 percent.
One of the problems with the "189" number has been that the majority of callers have dialed in from cell phones -- which has lengthened waiting times because details such as postal code or prefecture need to be entered before connection with a consultation center with jurisdiction can be made.
As a result, many callers using cell phones have simply disconnected during calls. In response, the welfare ministry reduced the length of the pre-recorded guidance by about 30 seconds starting in spring 2016. However, even following this change, waiting times of up to 1 minute and 50 seconds were experienced -- and the connection rate only improved to about 20 percent.
With the majority of calls being from cell phones, the welfare ministry has decided to invest 370 million yen in fiscal 2017 in order to create a vastly improved system, which will center around a call center model. Under the new system, a caller using a cell phone will be quickly redirected to a local child consultation center, upon providing details such as area of residence to the call center operator. The waiting times under this new system are expected to be about 30 seconds. The number of required operators will be determined following further consideration.
On the other hand, calls from land-line telephones are automatically redirected to an adviser at a child consultation center within 15 to 28 seconds -- so the "189" service for land-line callers will continue to run.
A welfare ministry representative stated, "With the majority of calls being from cell phones, we want to set up a system that can solidly pick up child abuse reports by eliminating the hassle of repeatedly having to enter numbers (to confirm details such as postal codes)."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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