Disabled activists sit in at the Knesset plenum discussing goverment allowances for the disabled, September 18, 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The cabinet approved on Sunday a proposal to increase disability allotments by NIS 1.45 billion beginning in January and an additional NIS 50 million for the blind.
The proposal was brought forth by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz and is based on the recommendations of National Economic Council chairman Avi Simhon, who was appointed by the prime minister.
Netanyahu praised the government for making “tremendous economic and social” strides in his opening remarks of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I think that this is very major progress and is, in effect, a change that is without precedent for decades that constitutes genuine consideration for a needy population,” he said. “There are none more deserving of this assistance.”
To date, people with disabilities receive an allotment of some NIS 2,343 per person per month – less than half the minimum wage and barely enough to live with dignity.
In September, following protests in which disabled people obstructed busy intersections, the government approved a NIS 4.2b. increase in disability benefits over the next four years.
The cabinet approval reflects only the first payment, starting with a NIS 300 rise per person in January.
“This is the first step in realizing the agreement,” explained Netanyahu. “Budgeting of the agreement in full will be submitted to the cabinet for approval next month as part of the approval for the state budget for 2019.”
The agreement stipulated that the raise will be in proportion to the severity of the disability; those with the most debilitating conditions are to receive NIS 4,500 per month.
Additionally, Katz recommended adding NIS 370m. for some 75,000 elderly disabled people, as well as an increase in allotments for blind people totaling NIS 50m.
To date, elderly disabled people must decide between receiving a disability pension or an old-age pension. The new increase would allow for both.
Katz also welcomed the cabinet approval, saying: “I am happy that I was able to convince the government that we cannot skip [allocating] an increase for the elderly disabled and the blind.”
The bill is set to go for a vote in the Knesset plenum in the coming days.
Disability groups were split in their reactions to the government’s vote.
The headquarters for the group, the Struggle for the Disabled, issued a statement welcoming the cabinet’s approval: “We are confident that the issue of the number of payments and linkage to the national average wage will also end, as we expect, during the deliberations of the Labor and Social Services Committee headed by MK Eli Alalouf, while preparing the law for second and third readings.”
The organization, Disabled, Not Half a Person, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the final bill, stating that it did not uphold the points agreed to in the original agreement and “reduced the additions to the [disability] allotments by hundreds of shekels.”