(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Finance Ministry on Monday backed down from its plan to privatize all 14 governmental day-care centers, which are home to 2,000 disabled and mentally challenged Israelis. Instead, only two centers will be privatized in a pilot program in which they will be run by non-profit organizations under government supervision.
The full privatization plan was postponed following strong objections from Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who voiced fears that the move would damage the employment future of 1,300 veteran workers and reduce the quality of care due to a high turnover of workers. The Treasury estimated the move would have saved NIS 300 million a year.
Under the experimental pilot program, a research unit will be charged with safeguarding patients' and workers' rights in a process to be coordinated with the Histadrut Labor Federation, the patients' families and parents' committees.
Herzog had emphasized his concern that a high worker turnover rate at private centers would not be able to supply the patients with a stable and consistent environment and treatment.
"People should be able to choose between private and governmental day care," said Ido Nahum, spokesman of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. "In addition, up until today there was no appropriate retirement plan for the day care workers that would allow them to retire in dignity and ensure that those who do stay do so because they are good workers."
The money saved is to be invested in the improvement of residents' welfare, the widening of communal services and the development of programs to encourage employment.
The Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry also announced an addition of NIS 300m. to its budget for 2008 to be channeled, inter alia, to the establishment of day-care centers for the elderly as well as the development of programs to deal with violence and prostitution and help victims of sexual assaults.