City’s welfare plan daunts applicants with red tape

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City’s welfare plan daunts applicants with red tape

A 71-year-old woman, Kim, lives on 96,800 won ($90) per month, a welfare payment by the central government. As rising prices reduced the value of that pittance even more, she applied for the Seoul’s city government’s new financial assistance program. She was rejected because she had more than 5 million won in assets.

In a separate instance, a 73-year-old woman, Park, decided not to apply for the city government’s financial subsidy after hearing that she will be required to produce documents about her sons and daughters’ finances.

“I’ve not been in touch with my sons for years, so how could I possibly give the city government their financial information?” she asked.

The Seoul city’s welfare program for the elderly faces criticism that the requirements to receive benefits are too strict. The program, which took effect in July, was aimed at covering people shut out of the central government’s safety net. The help offered to the elderly by the Park Geun-hye administration excludes those with offspring.

“I hope this social program will help advance the welfare status of the elderly,” Seoul’s Mayor Park Won-soon said in July when the program was initiated.

As of the end of September, however, the number of beneficiaries of the program is only 3,827, even though the Seoul Metropolitan Government had expected 40,000 older people to qualify by the end of this year. The city council then slashed the budget for the program by 10.7 billion won.

Only a few recipients doesn’t mean the welfare program is not popular. Nearly 92,000 people have met with counselors at local offices to discuss the subsidy program, but only 23,000 started the application process.

The others backed off because they opted not to offer a string of required documents. The most sensitive one, in their minds, is the details of the financial status of their offspring.

“Procedures for the central government’s program include provisions for an extra meeting to discuss the matter if people can’t submit the necessary documents due to a strained relationship with sons and daughters,” a district office official in Gwanak said. “But Seoul requires all necessary documents without exceptions or waiver. A lot of people give up after that.”

The city’s welfare office said that it set tough rules to contend with the expected huge demand. Sources there said the city would relax some of the requirements before the end of this month.



BY AHN HYO-SEONG [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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