Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Remember there is no shame in accepting welfare
Recently, a committee for tackling illegal public assistance payouts has been launched in Kanagawa Prefecture. It appears that prefectural authorities and local law enforcers will be collaborating to establish a system to purge fraudulent public assistance recipients from the welfare rolls.
When I hear people saying things along the lines of, "People taking welfare unlawfully is indeed a problem, but...," I feel somewhat depressed. As a matter of fact, a number of my patients have told me they're considering taking themselves off public assistance, such as cancelling their disability pensions or their applications for injury or illness allowances.
One tearful patient, currently unable to work due to an illness and with a family on welfare, told me, "They are my relatives so I should be the one sending them money. I feel really miserable." The other patients of mine who raised similar concerns are all taking welfare assistance as a last resort, just to maintain a base-line standard of living. These folks can hardly be accused of welfare fraud.
I tell such patients that they should hold their heads high and continue receiving their allowances without feeling bad about it. But they, feeling a heavy sense of responsibility, shake their heads in disapproval.
"While the government is talking of increasing the consumption tax to improve Japan's finances, I feel extremely bad for taking public money," one patient said. "When I watch reports of illegal welfare recipients on TV, I feel as if they are pointing at me, and I feel alienated."
All welfare recipients that I know of feel similar. There are some media reports on public assistance recipients who drive foreign cars, or on criminals coercing social workers into putting them on the public assistance rolls. However, I want to ask: Where are these things actually happening?
What will happen to people if they withdraw from welfare assistance? I find statements such as "as long as one is determined, they should be able to find all sorts of jobs," mostly come from people lucky enough to be both healthy and socially engaged.
What I tell my patients is: "I understand your feelings well. But you still need a little bit more time before you return to work. Until then, please protect your life by accepting welfare assistance, and concentrate on your treatment. You can repay society for its kindness after you recover." This does not, however, bring a smile to their faces.
I agree that it is important to crack down on illegal welfare recipients. However, at the same time I hope another system -- one that tracks down people who need assistance but aren't getting it -- is also launched. The number of people who are unable to maintain even the most basic standard of living, and who are in a constant fear of "causing trouble" to others, is greater than people imagine. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
July 08, 2012(Mainichi Japan)