August 31, 2010

JAPAN: Seikatsu hogo - help for those in dire straits

.
TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / Life in Japan / August 31, 2010

LIFELINES
By ANGELA JEFFS and KEN JOSEPH JR.

Reader KS is having a hard time and doesn't know where to turn.

"I have been working for years but suddenly find myself unemployed, over 60 and unwell. I didn't know about the pension program so have not paid into it at all. What can I do?"

Thankfully in Japan there are a number of programs that can help.

First, get a friend who speaks fluent Japanese to take you to the Seikatsu Hogo (livelihood protection) Department at your local city hall.

If you don't have a place to stay, the staff will help you get into an apartment, furnish it for you and loan you the funds to make any necessary down payments.

If you are found to qualify, you can receive monthly seikatsu hogo support, which in the major cities is about ¥148,000 a month, including around ¥56,000 in rent support. They can also supply you with a train or bus pass and papers entitling you to medical care.

If you are elderly and unable to work, this can become permanent. If you are able to work, support will usually continue for about six months until you can find a job and get back on your feet.

Be advised that there are a number of individual programs depending on your specific circumstances.

Visit The Japan Helpline website and press "help" if you want to find a local volunteer in your area to go with you. It is extremely important that you do not go alone, and if at all possible have a place to stay before you go.

Seikatsu Hogo staff are usually extremely kind and helpful, and they should take the time to put together a personal program for you. For example, there is one scheme that began last autumn targeting people who suddenly lose their jobs. This program provides immediate support for six months.

Have any readers had any experiences with seikatsu hogo? This being Japan, there are variables between city halls, and in our experience we know some to be absolutely wonderful and others less so.

Up and running

KL has come to Japan for a year and wonders where to get information on running.

Try the following website to give you a head start: runningintokyo.com
For more information on marathons, track and field events and races, mail zatopek42@yahoo.co.jp.

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at http://www.jhelp.com/. Send queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp