2008-2009

Public assistance for the poor

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Recent years have seen an increase in the number of persons committing suicide as an way to escape poverty. The lives of the economically disadvantaged groups hang by a thread. The problem exposes a widening income gap in Taiwan. Not only does a growing number of impoverished people account for the workforce, the spread of poverty is slowing eroding Taiwan’s productivity. The Control Yuan calls upon the government to reevaluate its social assistance policies. (Case no. 0980800787)
The Control Yuan launched an investigation and faulted the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of the Interior for dereliction of duty. The investigation found the Executive Yuan’s failure to update the law regulating social assistance and its supplementary measures, resulting in gross underestimation of the number of people on social assistance (less than 1%), much lower than the figure published by Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, the Ministry of the Interior and the academics. The Executive Yuan also failed to see to it that responsible agencies set aside budget to fund social assistance. The Ministry of the Interior was found to be at fault for not standardizing the criteria and threshold that qualify households for low-income subsidies. The Ministry also failed to integrate and institutionalize social assistance and adopting a “one-size fits all” approach to issuing the minimum allowances, regardless of living standards that varied across cities and counties. The Ministry’s assistance program, launched in 2008 to provide immediate care and emergency assistance to persons in need, was of a temporary nature, and overlapped with the emergency aid set out in the Public Assistance Act. The Ministry of the Interior failed to properly inform low-income households of the means with which to apply for assistance or subsidies, or what alternatives are available when the application is turned down. The Ministry also failed to ensure that local government provide adequate social funding and waited two year to set clear purpose and scope of social assistance.
At the request of the CY, the Ministry of the Interior revised the Public Assistance Act to lower the threshold that qualify for subsidies, including family size, the calculation of income earned by youth, persons with disabilities and senior persons, as well as the criteria for assessing productivity. The Ministry of the Interior has assisted all administration districts to introduce referral mechanisms. Local governments have agreed to set aside a special fund dedicated to public assistance. The CY will follow up on the ten agencies that have yet to revise standards for applying for emergency aid.