Cecilia Van Cauwenberghe from Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Group, sheds light on social welfare as a crucial element to understand the context of social work education and development in Japan, starting with some general background
The concept of social work in Japanese society and its distinction with social welfare is crucial to understanding the context of social work education, and development related issues in Japan. During the past five years, the Japanese authorities launched several main programs that provide money management for low-income people. Indeed, money management has become an essential matter among vulnerable people, and welfare programs are considerably helping to address this need (Matsui, 2019).
Primary programs to support low-income people in Japan
Daily Living Program
The programs provide money management support as a condition for full benefits for a minimum income. This requirement may harm people’s freedom in their private lives. Therefore, some experts suggest a partly conditional approach as an alternative (Niroya, 2018). This approach would mean that one kind of additional benefit, such as a public loan with a low interest rate or matched savings for different needs other than for basic needs, is conditional to money management support, not in a rigid way. All the experts agree that privacy must be respected in all processes. Also, professional education programs on money management should be standardised because currently, their success depends on individual workers’ abilities. Additional services, such as the Services for Independence in Daily Living Program, offers social resources for vulnerable people in the market.
Counselling Program for Family Finances
The Counselling Program for Family Finances focuses exclusively on money management, while the central government provides opportunities for workers to take training on helping users with financial management. The disadvantages of these programs are related to access support (Miyawaki, 2017). Low-income people without public assistance benefits may pay charges for the Services for Independence in Daily Living Program in some areas.
Conversely, the Counseling Program focuses only on money management, so that, overall, it appears to be unattractive for people. In the overall design of the money management programs for low-income people, the method of each support differs according to whether users receive public assistance or not and whether they have sufficient cognitive ability. People with adequate cognitive ability, but who are not expected to improve their competency are targeted by neither the Counseling Program for Family Finances nor the Services for Independence in Daily Living Program. One of the fundamental challenges for these programs is how the Counseling Program for Family Finances approaches people who stop using the Public Assistance Program and are financially independent but still have a low income (Matsui, 2020).
“In the overall design of the money management programs for low-income people, the method of each support differs according to whether users receive public assistance or not and whether they have sufficient cognitive ability.”
Final remarks about programs
When a program is strictly conditional on money management support, clients must accept it or lose their qualification for the primary benefit. When the main advantages of public assistance are basic needs for a minimum standard of living, the conditionality could impact the recipients’ lives.
Some advantages of these programs are associated with their design and implementation. However, these facts strongly depend on the service’s performance, or quality depends on the area or staff. They are considering the overall system of three programs, some people on the boundaries of program eligibility risk being excluded from all services. In addressing this concern, some actions still need to be taken to guarantee overall social work and social welfare across the whole of society.
- (1) Hiroya, N.O.D.A., 2018. Social Welfare Programs and Money Management Support for Low-Income People in Japan. Bulletin of The Faculty of Education and Welfare Aichi Prefectural University, (66), pp.85-95.
- (2) Matsui, J., 2019. Paradigm Change of Social Security and Social Welfare.
- Matsuo, K., 2020. Challenges in Social Work Education in the Context of Social Work in Japanese Society. In The Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Work Education (pp. 35-42). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
- Miyawaki, C., 2017. Review of Social Welfare in Japan: Principles and Applications. Kojun Furukawa. Reviewed by Christina Miyawaki.
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