Some of the blind demonstrators protest at the Knesset yesterday over their current stipend of NIS 790 per month..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Following threats that it would cut the monthly mobility allowance to the visually impaired, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry reversed course and promised Wednesday to raise it beginning next year.
“We have no intention to cut the budget,” the ministry said in a statement.
Following Sunday’s demonstrations in front of the Knesset in which several hundred blind people protested their mobility stipends, the ministry said it will raise the minimum monthly travel allowance from NIS 500 to NIS 750, or 75% of the maximum As of January 1, 2018, NIS 1.7 million will be added to the ministry’s budget to provide for the increase. Despite the Knesset Finance Committee having rejected a request from the ministry to finance the increase, Labor and Social Affairs Ministry Haim Katz announced that the budget will come from the ministry itself.
Currently, there are three levels of transportation allowances for the blind: NIS 1,000 per month for those who are employed or are students; NIS 750 for those who do not work or study and do not receive a monthly allowance from the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi); and NIS 500 for those who do not work or study, but receive a monthly Bituach Leumi allowance. Beginning January 1, the monthly allowance for the last group will increase to NIS 750.
“We really thank Minister Katz for finally, after all these years, deciding to do the right thing and raise those who get the least amount up to 75%. We also thank him very much for the efforts he made to reverse the reduction [of funding],” Nati Bialistok Cohen, director of the Center for the Blind in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.
Nevertheless, Cohen said it was a small victory in the ongoing struggle he and his group are waging for an increase to NIS 2,300, which is what the disabled currently receive for their transportation.
“You don’t have to be an economist or a mathematician to see that this is not enough for us to be a part of society,” said Cohen.