(photo credit: ULPANEI REHOVOT)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has announced a NIS 5 million plan to integrate children with special needs into youth movements in collaboration with the Joint Distribution Committee Israel Ashalim, the Israel Council of Youth Movements, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, the National Insurance Institute funds and other organizations.
“Integrating children with special needs in youth movements is the pinnacle of education values. These are double tidings, both for children with special needs and their families and also for the youth movements and the rest of the children,” Bennett said on Thursday.
The plan, which is set to take effect in the upcoming 2016/17 academic year, aims to double the number of special needs children in youth movements to 8,000 from 4,000 over a three-year period.
“The program was designed to allow every boy and girl with disabilities to integrate into youth movements as equals, allowing all of us to build a better and inclusive society,” said Dr. Rami Sulimani, director-general of JDC-Ashalim.
Until three years ago, there were only a few hundred children with special needs who were able to participate in youth movements due to a lack of resources in both training programs and logistical support.
Then, as part of an initiative to promote inclusion of children with disabilities into the formal and informal education systems, a steering committee was established to examine the inclusion of disabled children, and a pilot program was launched that integrated some 4,000 children with disabilities into youth movements.
“When we see the broad and professional work, done from the heart and soul, to integrate all children and youth, it strengthens the recognition that the activity of inclusion is one of the highlights of youth movement activities,” said Naftali Deri, secretary-general of the Israel Council of Youth Movements.
“On trips and in summer camps and ongoing activities you cannot remain indifferent when you see the joy in the eyes of children and counselors who feel and understand they are partners to a significant and special activity,” he added.