Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Social welfare needs local scrutiny

By Yu Ying-fu 尤英夫

After veteran entertainer Lisa Cheng (鄭惠中) slapped Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) in the face at a lunar year-end banquet because she was upset with the minister’s attempts to “discredit” Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), reports said that Lisa Cheng is receiving a low-income subsidy of NT$6,000, even though she lives in a luxury apartment — allegations that Cheng denies.

It does not look very good if someone who lives in luxury housing receives a low-income subsidy and it raises questions about our welfare system.

The Pearl S. Buck Foundation is caring for a few hundred children of immigrants and we also receive adoption aid for one to three of our adoptive parents. The adoption aid is not very high, and some people have to apply for low-income subsidies from the Department of Social Welfare.

In one case that I witnessed when accompanying social workers, an immigrant family with four children — who all received assistance from our adoptive parents — altogether six people, lived in Taipei’s last slum, Ankang Community (安康社區). The family was squeezed into a small two-bedroom apartment of about 13 ping (43m2).

The living room was full of miscellaneous things, which they said were materials to be used by immigrants for interior decoration, but the materials did not sell very well at all. There was no space to sit down.

The husband was 60 years old, had prostate problems, high blood pressure and diabetes, and ran a small business that did not even earn him NT$10,000 per month. Fortunately, the family could still put food on the table thanks to a NT$20,000 subsidy from the social welfare department.

I wanted to help the wife improve her business, but did not know how to go about it, and wanted to help the family apply for a subsidy from a large social welfare group, but the husband shook his head and said that they had tried that five years ago, but the application was flatly rejected without a stated reason.

This was perplexing, as the family clearly needed help and it makes one wonder what standards decisions about subsidies are based on.

Generally speaking, low-income households in Taipei are still able to make a living, but in other counties or cities, local government leaders might misappropriate social welfare funds or not handle subsidy applications according to the stipulated standards.

If that is the case, those in need are in a difficult situation.

County and city councils, and the Control Yuan must keep their eyes open and monitor the situation.

Yu Ying-fu is chairman of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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