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Lawmakers spark debate on support for disabled at work

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Eiko Kimura, second from left, and Yasuhiko Funago, second from right, both upper house lawmakers from the Reiwa Shinsengumi party, enter the Diet on Aug. 1.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Workplace support for people with disabilities has become a major topic following the House of Councillor’s decision to provisionally cover the costs of care for two lawmakers with severe disabilities during their work as representatives.

People with severe intellectual or physical disabilities who require constant nursing care can receive round-the-clock support at their homes under the “home-visit care system.” Out-of-pocket expenses are capped at 10 percent of the entire cost under the current system. A total of 11,253 people were using the service as of March.

However, the system does not cover the costs of care while commuting to work or during work hours. More people are calling for reviewing the system to address this issue.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto said at a press conference on Aug. 2, “To create a society in which people with disabilities can work comfortably, providing them with the necessary care at work is a pressing issue.” His comment shows that the ministry is considering ways to better support working people with disabilities.

Yasuhiko Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Eiko Kimura, who is paralyzed below the neck, won seats for the first time in the latest upper house election as members of new opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi. Both use home-visit nursing care under the law on comprehensive support for persons with disabilities. However, a lawmaker’s activities are regarded as “work,” so the system does not cover the costs of their care during this time.

The upper house has decided for the time being to bear the costs of nursing care while the two lawmakers are conducting Diet-related work.

However, Reiwa Shinsengumi is seeking to overhaul the current system, which requires companies and other entities that hire people with disabilities to cover the costs of their care.

“[The system] is working against enabling more people with disabilities to work,” said Reiwa Shinsengumi leader Taro Yamamoto.

Some ruling and opposition party lawmakers are also in favor of reviewing the system.

Yukio Edano, leader of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said, “The upper house’s decision to bear the costs of care should not result in entrenching the conventional system of employers paying the costs.”

Fumio Kishida, Policy Research Council chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, also showed support for a review, saying, “It’s important to consider an environment where people who are willing to work can work.”

Ichiro Matsui, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai and mayor of Osaka city, has also agreed to review the system, but added: “Changing the system would require injecting more tax revenue. An upper income limit should be imposed.”

Matsui opposed the upper house’s decision to bear the costs of care before reexamining the system, saying, “It’s unfair to only give special treatment to Diet members.”Speech

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