Even the most conscientious planners can be smacked upside the head by life sometimes. Whether from a medical situation, accident, or family tragedy, you could find yourself in need of financial assistance just to make ends meet. Luckily, social safety nets exist for just this reason.
Still, it can be hard to swallow one’s pride and ask for help, which is why staff at the welfare office should be especially sensitive to the feelings of applicants, but a recent investigation into practices at the Osaka welfare bureau have uncovered that many applicants encountered shocking insensitivity, sometimes so callous it crossed into sexual harassment.
These stories were uncovered as part of a two-day, nation-wide telephone inquiry into welfare practices in Japan. The project was undertaken by lawyers and scholars in the field in an effort to determine the true state of affairs in the welfare system.
Here are some of the stories they heard:
“After having my application refused five times, the staff member shocked me by telling me to get a job at a soapland.” – 30-year-old woman [ed.- A soapland is a kind of brothel where clients ostensibly pay to have a woman bathe them]
“After completing a cancer treatment, I was working four days a week at a nursing home, but needed help to care for my three kids. When I went to the welfare office, they just told me to get a different job.” – 50-year-old woman
Another person related that after collapsing at his job, he was forced to quit for health reasons. Unable to make rent and with just 11 yen to his name, he applied to the welfare office, whereupon he was told to “get a job” and provided with a booklet on job hunting advice. He diligently went to the employment services center and applied for six jobs, getting an interview for one, but he was eventually rejected because they feared his poor health, exacerbated by the fact that he now didn’t have the money to properly feed and care for himself, would prevent him from being able to do the job. Meanwhile, his application for welfare assistance was supposed to be processed within two weeks, but he didn’t get an answer—a rejection—for 27 days.
Under guidelines issued by the city of Osaka, the welfare bureau may reject applications if they deem the applicant has not exerted “sufficient” effort to find a job. This requirement goes under the misleading name of “coaching.”
Based on the results of their survey, the inquiry commission is recommending the speedy abolition of these guidelines, saying that they conflict with the national Livelihood Protection Law, which guarantees a minimum standard of living and carries no “coaching” requirement for assistance applicants.