The Social Service Council of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare discusses the public assistance programs in its two panels: one is the Section of Livelihood Protection Service Standard and the other is the Section of Support for Independent Livelihood and Protection of People in Need. The Abe government has already dragged down the level. The whole system was revised for worse by the law in 2013. It may be further degraded.
COUNCIL MUST ADVISE TO COMPLY WITH CONSTITUTION
The Section of Livelihood Protection Service Standard discusses a level of services to be applied from April next year. The panel, led by Komamura Kohei, Professor of Keio University, consists of eight members, including Prof. Abe Aya, Tokyo Metropolitan University (TMU), Prof. Iwata Masami, Japan Women’s University, Prof. Okabe Taku, TMU, and Vice-president Miyamoto Michiko, the Open University of Japan, who are leading experts on the issue of poverty.
The panel holds meetings every five years for reviewing. The last advice was abandoned as the second round of Abe government was formulated and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party harshly criticized welfare. The service level has dropped: as for the livelihood subsidies, they fell down by 7.3% on the average by three-round reductions from August 2013 to April 2015. A housing benefit has been revised for worse since July 2015. An additional aid for winter season has been reduced since November 2015.
The New Socialist Party expects the Ministry’s panel should guarantee the standard by which welfare recipients can enjoy the minimum level of a healthy and cultural life (the national minimum) in compliance with the principle of Article 25 of the Constitution.
Municipal Governors Reduce Budget
The ministry’s Section of Support for Independent Livelihood and Protection for People in Need started to work in May. The support scheme was implemented in the Fiscal 2015 to save people at the stage before they need welfare. As a sole financial aid a housing subsidy is given.
The scheme is under scrutiny for three years. The ministry’s two sections work together this year. The members count 21, which include Prof. Miyamoto Taro, Chuo University, the chief of the Section, and leaders of municipalities, doctors’ association, welfare organizations and labor unions.
Debates in the joint meeting, however, are striking.
A meeting was held on July 27. Mayor of Kawasaki City Fukuda Norihiko, representing the Mayors’ Association of Designated Cities, reported that it had proposed the government that the state should introduce a system to demand beneficiaries to pay partially for medical services. The mayor continued to say that such a system should work efficiently to reduce not only frequent-medical-consultation practices but multiple-department-consultation ones and that generic medicines would be chosen more broadly.
The mayor’s opinion was, naturally, objected by members of the Medical Association and the labor union, the Rengo. He wanted to say that a welfare client should pay certain part of medical cost from his/her income. That is, he tries to take off, in fact, the minimum level of livelihood, telling ‘it is guaranteed’ on the other.
The Mayors’ Association of Designated Cities, consisting of mayors of big cities, has long insisted to reduce welfare budget. It has demanded to grade down the programs. As heads of municipalities, the stance is questionable.
Twice as Much ? Suicide Rate among Welfare Clients
A budget for the medical assistance programs accounts 1 trillion 780 billion Yen in the Fiscal 2015, over 50% of which was spent on hospitalization. Out of the hospital charges 35% is laid in the treatment of ‘disorders of the mind and behaviors’.
It is not right to stir up distrust among people, criticizing welfare recipients for the habits of ‘frequent and multiple department consultation’. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (2011), the suicide rate among the welfare clients is twice as high as that of the average of the country. A consultation rate of regular health check is about 10% among them. This reality must be analyzed seriously.
September 26, 2017