A new benefits system for disabled people living in poverty and those who are severely disabled and need long-term nursing will begin nationwide on Jan 1, 2016, according to a news briefing at the State Council Information Office on Friday.
"The new system was approved by the State Council Executive Meeting on Wednesday and it is so far the only special benefits system for the disabled established at the national level," said Zou Ming, vice-minister of civil affairs.
So far 27 provinces have established their own systems, either for disabled people living in poverty or those who are severely disabled, but only 13 of them offer aid to both categories, Zou said.
The national system will encourage provinces and regions to set their own criteria based on their financial situations. But generally, aid for disabled people living in poverty should be no lower than 50 yuan (S$11) per month and the nursing subsidy for those who are severely disabled should be at least 100 yuan per month.
"At least 10 million disabled people living in poverty and some other 10 million severely disabled people will benefit from the system," Zou said.
"China has 85 million disabled people. Families with a disabled member have long been plagued by the plight of having less income and big outgoings for nursing. The implementation of the new subsidy will gradually relieve disabled families' economic burdens," said Cheng Kai, vice-chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.
However, because of the economic development of different provinces and regions, the benefits criteria will vary a lot, he said.
Disabled people living in poverty in Shanghai can receive 741 yuan per month, but in some provinces they only get 30 yuan per month. The nursing subsidy for the severely disabled is 300 yuan per month in Beijing, but in many other places it is fixed at 30 yuan.
"Because of this big variation, we need time to advise local governments on how to make some adjustments. With economic development, the benefit will gradually increase," Zou said.
Central and local governments will jointly fund the benefits. An estimated 18.1 billion yuan will be paid annually, of which welfare for the disabled living in poverty will account for 6 billion yuan and nursing for the severely disabled will cost 12.1 billion yuan.
"The real payment will be much higher, though, as the criteria that many provinces use are higher than those suggested by central government," Zou said.