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'Life counseling serves as lifeline': JCP helps people in need

“We provide counseling more than before for those who used to earn a lot of money and now face severe hardships due to unemployment or bankruptcy.” Hiejima Toshikazu, a Japanese Communist Party municipal assembly member of Fukuoka City talked about the current situation of life counseling that his office offers to residents free of charge.

Yamashita Tatsuo (not his real name) has managed to rebuild his shattered life through counseling. The 78-year-old man earned more than 10 million yen annually when he worked as a bridal planner. After retirement he and his wife opened a snack bar, but the once profitable business was hit by a severe recession. When he closed the bar in 2004, he was 12 million yen in debt.

He even lacked money to buy food and thought of killing himself. Then he came to Hiejima's office for life counseling. He was advised to seek welfare benefits. He was reluctant to follow the advice because he was ashamed of receiving welfare, just as most Japanese people feel. In fact, a municipal welfare office turned down Yamashita's application for the benefit, saying, “You certainly must have relatives who can support you.”

However, Hiejima, the JCP assembly member, encouraged Yamashita, stressing that “governments have the responsibility to support those who make great efforts to live.” Hiejima continued to advise Yamashita and negotiated his case with the welfare office. In February, Yamashita received a notice of approval from the office. “The relation with Hiejima was my lifeline,” Yamashita admits.

Hiejima emphasizes, “The counseling is the starting point as an assembly member. Working together with those who need help establishes solidarity with victims of mal-administration.”

A JCP branch in the local community works with Hiejima in the counseling service. They accompany applicants to receive benefits through negotiations with caseworkers. Branch members also call or visit aged residents who live alone to give them counseling.

Umeki Setsuko, a 66-year-old JCP branch member says, “Everybody depends on others. Counseling is the No.1 activity to promote human relations. That's why I enjoy it.”
- Akahata February 22, 2006





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