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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 January 27 - February 2  > Making inquiries to relatives for possible assistance is 'not mandatory' to receive public welfare benefits
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2021 January 27 - February 2 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Making inquiries to relatives for possible assistance is 'not mandatory' to receive public welfare benefits

January 29 & 31
Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Koike Akira drew an answer from Welfare Minister Tamura Norihisa that inquiries to relatives made by municipalities about public assistance applicants "is not mandatory".

At present, municipality welfare offices make inquiries to not only parents and spouses but also siblings and grandchildren to see if they are capable of giving aid to relatives who seek public assistance. Such inquiries to relatives have discouraged people in need from applying for welfare benefits.

At a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on January 28, Koike pointed out that among households in need of public livelihood assistance, only 20% are on welfare." He said, "With a growing number of people becoming unemployed or falling into poverty due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said that public assistance is 'a last resort' to protect livelihoods (Jan.27, Upper House Budget Committee). In reality, however, public assistance does not adequately function as 'a safety net'."

Data obtained by a foundation supporting persons in poverty shows that one out of every three persons who answered that they do not want to apply for relief despite their dire circumstances said that the reason for not applying is that they do not want their relatives to know about their hardships.

In July of 2019 alone, as many as 38,000 inquiries in total were made for support from relatives in regard to 17,000 people whose applications were successful. People have the impression that living on welfare is "shameful" because of the negative comments by Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, and this has been hindering needy people from applying for public assistance.

During the January 28 committee meeting, Koike asked, "Are you saying that it cannot be helped that people in need are reluctant to apply for public assistance out of fear that someone will become aware of their difficulties?"

Welfare Minister Tamura in response said that there are no legal provisions stipulating the need to contact relatives to see if they can support public assistance applicants and thus inquiries about support by kindred is "not mandatory". PM Suga also replied, "Claiming public assistance is a citizen’s right."

Koike said, "If you say so, you should put a stop to undue inquiries that discourage eligible people from applying for welfare benefits."
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