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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 6 - 12  > Termination of subsidy for welfare facility meals will impose heavier burdens on disabled people
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2017 December 6 - 12 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Termination of subsidy for welfare facility meals will impose heavier burdens on disabled people

December 7, 2017
Akahata editorial (excerpt)

The Welfare Ministry plans to terminate a subsidy program helping small-sized workshops for the disabled provide meals, mostly lunch, for their low-income users at the end of March 2018.

The program deals with sheltered workshops and similar facilities offering support for daily living and/or employment to disabled people. It covers labor costs necessary to make meals for users with public funds.

As the law to promote “self-support” of the disabled became effective in April 2006, disabled people working at such work centers are required to pay all the costs spent to prepare lunch, including labor and material costs. However, in order to cushion the impact from the change, the government set up a three-year extension of financial support for the meal service. This measure was renewed a few times and is still in place.

Most workshop employees have no source of income other than pension benefits and wages from their workshops. A survey by an organization of the disabled shows that 98% of the respondents earn less than two million yen a year. Many similar organizations at a meeting with the Welfare Ministry demanded the continuation of the financial support so that persons with disabilities can keep on using their facilities without anxiety. The ministry should be held responsible for ignoring their requests.

Currently, sheltered workshop users pay some 5,000 yen a month for meals, mostly lunch. If they are required to shoulder the entire cost of lunches as the Welfare Ministry plans, they will have to pay around 14,000 yen. Such people earn 15,000 yen a month on average at the workshop. Most of the earning will be canceled out by meal fees. The discontinuation of the subsidy program will also hit workshop operators. In some cases, annual income will decrease by 11 million yen. Such financial burdens will make it more difficult for operators to attract job applicants.

In a lawsuit in which plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the above-mentioned “self-support” law and demanded its abolition, the government in January 2010 reached a court-mediated settlement and made a basic agreement with the plaintiffs and their lawyers. In the agreement, the government stated that it may have hastily implemented programs related to the law without sufficiently considering the results of surveys and opinions of persons concerned. It went on to note that the careless application of the beneficiary-pays principle brought about confusion and adverse impacts on the livelihoods of the disabled and their families. The government expressed its deep regret over damaging the dignity of the persons with disabilities. The termination of the meal support program goes counter to this government statement in the basic agreement.

Past related articles:
> Cuts in state subsidies to community workshops for disabled in disaster-hit Kumamoto avoided [May 19, 2016]
> Community workshops for disabled in quake-hit Kumamoto face possible subsidy reductions [May 13, 2016]

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