(photo credit: Avi Hayoun)
Social issues are no less important than other challenges facing the government
and 2012 should see more focus than ever before on these problems facing
society, Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon said on
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He spoke during a press conference showcasing the programs his
ministry provides for the country’s impoverished and weakest
Social protesters march through central TA
The minister, who took up the position exactly a year ago,
discussed the annual review of social welfare services. According to the report,
more than 447,000 families, or one in every five Israeli households, received
treatment from social welfare services in 2010.
While the figures are on
par with those from the previous year, they mark a dramatic increase over the
past decade in the number of adults and children needing help for a wide range
of debilitating social problems.
Kahlon said that even though the
ministry has vastly expanded its services over the past five years in an attempt
to match that increase, it has still not been enough to reduce society’s
problems and empower those in need to break out of the poverty
“There is still a wide gap between the needs of the people and
what this ministry can provide them,” he said.
“Even after everything we
have done it is still not enough,” he said, adding that he is already working on
a mechanism that would monitor and assess all attempts to increase the costs of
essentials such as water, electricity and food staples.
“I believe that
2012 will become known as a year for promoting social issues,” said Kahlon,
drawing a distinction between the populist social justice protests that swept
the country this past summer and the government agenda to tackle social issues
facing lower and middle class populations.
“Previous governments dealt
more with other issues like peace and security, and while those are important,
the social issues are no less important,” he emphasized.
criticism that the Welfare Ministry – similar to other government offices – has
been increasingly opting to outsource or privatize some central programs instead
of taking on the responsibility directly, Kahlon said that “the government is
not turning away from its duties.”
Rather, he estimated that the total
state budget for government programs dealing with social issues, including in
the Ministries of Education, Health, Housing and the National Insurance
Institute, receive more than NIS 250 billion annually. Kahlon also noted that
the Welfare Ministry’s budget had only seen an increase over the past few
Ministry of Welfare and Social Services director-general Nahum
Itzkovitz backed this up with data demonstrating that the ministry’s budget
totaled more than NIS 4 b. annually, on top of the social programs and services
provided by other ministries and the NII.
Even with this substantial sum
and an increase in outreach programs, the ministry’s report shows that 1,319,000
individuals, or 17.1 percent of the population, were still in need of treatment
from social services in 2010.
Compiled by the ministry’s Research,
Training and Planning Division, the figures show a dramatic increase from the
298,000 families who received welfare treatment in 1998 to more than 447,300
families in 2010.
In addition to highlighting increased demands for
social services in recent years, the report also lists key reasons people sought
help in 2010.
Among the reasons: Parenting difficulties and youth
behavioral problems at 35.2% of all case files; poverty or unemployment at
34.4%; atrisk elderly people at 33.3%; mental and physical disabilities at
31.9%; violence against children and general domestic violence at 4.1%; and
addiction (alcohol, drug and others), prostitution and imprisonment at
The report revealed an unusually high number of Ethiopian
immigrants receiving treatment.
From within the 110,000-strong community,
the report found that 61.4% had open files with social services and even among
those in the second generation, the chance of them having met with a social
worker was twice as high as those outside the community.
Also cause for
concern was the large percentage of Arab families receiving support from welfare
Some 25% of the country’s 1.5 million Arabs were seen by social
workers in 2010, compared to 15.8% of the Jewish population.
said this was the second year in a row that the ministry compiled a detailed
report on its work, in an effort to create maximum transparency of its services.