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Benefits cuts for elderly unlawful: Fukuoka High Court

The Fukuoka High Court on June 14 ruled that the decision made by the City of Kitakyushu to abolish additional benefits for the elderly aged 70 and over in the livelihood protection program is unlawful, and called for its cancellation.

Among similar lawsuits filed in eight prefectures nationwide claiming that elimination of the additional benefits is unconstitutional and seeking restoration of the benefits, this is the first judicial decision in favor of plaintiffs. Article 25 of the Japanese Constitution states, gAll people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.h

The City of Kitakyushu originally provided a monthly additional payment of some 18,000 yen for elderly welfare recipients. However, following the changed national standard, it gradually reduced the amount and ended the payments in fiscal 2006. Thus, 39 residents in the city aged 74 to 92 filed a lawsuit, calling on the city to cancel its decision.

Presiding Judge Koga Hiroshi reversed a lower court ruling that supported the abolition of the additional benefits, saying, gIt is a detrimental alteration of the protection standard without just cause and therefore it is illegal.h

Based on the interim report compiled by an expert panel, the national government revised the standard for the livelihood protection program and removed the additional benefits. Nonetheless, the panel also emphasized the necessity to maintain the minimum standard of living for elderly people and to introduce measures to prevent their living levels from plummeting further. gConsideration for these points is insufficient and thus it constitutes lack of sound judgment,h said Koga.

- Akahata June 15, 2010



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