生活保護扶養照会見直し~Inquiries prevent people from asking for help

Regarding the application process for public assistance programs in Japan, local governments had to ask the applicant’s parent, siblings and children who are basically 20 years and older if they may offer financial assistance for the applicant. This rule however, have been making it difficult for those in need to consider applying for public assistance, so Japanese government has just decided to change this rule recently.


The welfare ministry will notify local governments they don’t have to ask the applicant’s family any more only if they are not having contact each other for about 10 years. The change here is that local bodies didn’t have to do the family inquiry when the applicant and family were not keeping in touch at all for 20 years, but now the period is shortened for 10 years.


I saw some criticizes that this notification of change is too little to encourage people to apply for welfare, but actually those local governments had had authority to decide not to contact to the applicant’s family depending on each situation. Therefore, when I, as a gyoseishoshi lawyer made application form for public assistance for my client, I wrote down request or demand not to contact to my client’s family by phone or mail or whatever method with proper reason and there was no case that local bodies didn’t listen to those demand.


However, I have my own experience that I felt I was left behind by local authority when I was in real poverty about 20 years ago. If it’s a case of asking for help from my aging parents, I thought I would rather solve it myself.


Recently, my young foreign friend who has just started working as a teacher in Japanese elementary school seemed surprised and asked me.
‘Why are there so many children who are unable to afford school books and basic materials for education even though there is income assistance for the poor (called Seikatsu hogo; Public Assistance in Japan.)


Poverty in Japan had been rarely visible even from long before the coronavirus crisis.


I had been one of those Japanese who believed there is little begging and homeless in Japan until I came to Osaka about 12 years ago in my late 20s.


The poor in Japan had been quietly hidden in shadows away from sight, but now because of coronavirus crisis, poverty is increasing at alarming rates.


This picture was taken last December at district where many homeless are sleeping on the ground even during cold winter some of them even die by morning…the man on the picture is a president of Osaka company with warm heart who is doing volunteer work for many years to help people on the street by providing blanket or warm rice ball, curry and rice and so on.


One of my female clients said once she got into her 40s, she found she wasn’t even being invited to interviews for part-time positions and felt fear when her rent’s due day drew closer.


Before COVID-19 desaster, she kept working without fail even though her career had been a series of non-regular jobs with relatively low wages so applying for public assistance welfare was one of those circumstances she always thought had no relation to her life.


She graduated from private university during the period 1993-2004 after the bubble economy burst what is called ‘employment ice age’ in Japan so she had always been in non-permanent work.


She was raised by strict but kind parents so she didn’t want to tell them she was facing poverty ended up searching on the internet to solve the situation and then, she found me, a gyoseishoshi-lawyer; certified expert authorized to prepare documents to be submitted to public agencies.


Once unemployed due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, she said she made lots of applications and applied to whatever industry via several recruitment websites but few led to interviews.


Before she came to our Gyoseishoshi Lawyer’s office, she went to the ward office by herself but the waiting area were almost all full and it took over 30 minutes when she finally got a chance to talk to the government employee.
‘There are people whose circumstance is even worse than you.’
The word soon told by the government employee made her upset.


I explained to her that she has right to use public assistance depending on her situation and she said she had been hesitating to apply such program due to prejudice but if only local government won’t contact to her family, she said she want to be saved, so I made some documents for her right away and sent information swiftly to municipal government. She could borrow some money from government office that day to buy food and so on as there is about 14-30 day waiting period before the start of initial benefits.


The burden caused by the coronavirus crisis is greater for socially vulnerable people who cannot afford to collect information so I as a gyoseishoshi lawyer am willing to help prevent those people from slipping through the system and not receiving proper aid amid virus crisis.