A local assembly of municipality of Hyogo Prefecture, Ono City, voted to approve an ordinance, called Adjustment System of Social Welfare Benefit, on March 27. The administrative rule has purposes to prevent recipients of social benefits from spending and wasting money for gambling and to request citizens to inform to the city authority when he/she finds irregularities. Opinions in favor and against the ordinance were sent from many corners of the country, which count around two thousand.
ARTICLE 25 OF CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES RIGHT TO SURVIVE, BUT IS QUESTIONED
The ordinance of Ono City is issued to keep beneficiaries from spending allowances on Pachinko game, bicycle race, horse race and other gambles, imposing duties on them to lead a decent life and improve it. And on the other hand it demands citizens to inform to the city authority of social allowance recipients who behave in a troublesome way: indulging in Pachinko game, bicycle race, horse race and other gambling games.
'Commissioners on Adjustment' are designated, who are usually ex-police officers, by the city authority. Then they investigate facts after the city office analyzes provided information. Finally the administration office gives rigorous advice to such recipients.
This is unprecedented; an ordinance obliging citizens to inform. No such a rule is found across the nation. The ordinance took effect April 1 this year. Sixty percent of the opinions presented were in favor of the ordinance, in which they say 'tax money cannot be spent on gambling' and 'it is reasonable to prohibit recipients to waste money'.
Possible Violation of Constitution
The other forty percent of the opinions oppose it: they claim 'violation of the human rights', 'the ordinance will lead to a society of surveillance' and 'it will enhance discrimination and prejudice against recipients'. The Bar Association of Hyogo Prefecture issued a statement immediately, proclaiming that 'it possibly violates Constitution', demanding withdrawal and abolishment of the ordinance. The New Socialist Party fully supports the statement of lawyers on the ground that it curbs violent drive of the administrative power and it represents a rule of law to guarantee the rights of people.
The Life Protection System is a constitutional right to survive. Money distributed in the framework of social welfare does not mean charity to the poor, but a redistribution of social wealth in order that everyone could lead an independent, humane life. How to spend the money is a decision to be made by recipient himself/herself.
However, some recipients have strong feeling of shame, or negative sentiment. A female recipient in her 70s feels 'embarrassed, when the ordinance provokes some troubles, though I live decently'. The Ono City's rule threatens benefit recipients and makes application for the service harder. It undermines the very basis of the social service.
Many worry about the obligation of citizens to inform: a citizen must inform to the city office of an irregular fact when he/she sees - that may lead to a society in which everyone may be watched. Mayor Horai Tsutomu of Ono City insists that 'it is not surveillance, but protection to deepen bondage of community'. He rejects the objections. Citizens complain that they do not know how to inform as they cannot identify who is a recipient.
Administrative Responsibilities Thrown Away
Guidance and advice must be given in the jurisdiction of the Social Welfare Office. Citizens, who are not experts, are not qualified to judge behaviors of recipients. That means negligence of responsibilities on the side of administration. Commissioners must not be ex-police officers, but social case workers. The number of the latter should be increased.
More than 10 million people are poor who cannot live a humane life even though they work 40 hours a week. The Abe government has a policy to cut the amount of life protection benefits by approximately 10% in three years.
The constitutional right to live a minimum level of healthy and cultural life is questioned. Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to survive is on the verge of crisis.
April 1, 2013