Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (L) and Eli Alalouf.
(photo credit: AVI HAYOUN)
Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen and Eli Alalouf, head of the Committee to Fight Poverty, announced on Monday the intended allocation of NIS 1.7 billion for the implementation of the committee’s recommendations to fight poverty in the upcoming year.
“For me, this is a historic and important moment. Poverty is no longer a problem of invisible people, and its treatment is becoming the responsibility of the government in a structured, measurable and organized manner. This is the responsibility of the government, that after many years is taking responsibility,” Cohen said at the press conference announcing the allocation at the ministry’s offices in Jerusalem.
In June, the Committee to Fight Poverty released long-awaited recommendations to combat poverty, totaling an estimated NIS 7b. to implement.
According to the annual poverty report released in December by the National Insurance Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 there were 1,754,700 people, including 439,500 families and 817,200 children, living below the poverty line – 23.5 percent of the population.
The committee, which was appointed by Cohen, called to reduce the poverty rates by 40% to reach the OECD average of 11% within 10 years.
The committee stated that the only way to accomplish this goal is to adopt and begin implementing all the recommendations within the next three to five years.
The committee was responsible for making recommendations on the actions required by the state to combat poverty in all aspects of life.
Yet despite the lofty recommendations, the government was unable to allocate the entire portion of the required budget to implement all the necessary recommendations.
However, Cohen has been adamant in recent weeks that the recommendations of the committee would be implemented in the best possible way. Last month, at a Welfare Ministry conference, Cohen said combating poverty would be one of the ministry’s primary tasks for the upcoming year, with an emphasis on addressing poverty among the elderly.
In recent weeks, a series of interministerial meetings was held on the issue of financing the committee’s recommendations. Among the ministries involved in the implementation were the Welfare, Economy, Education, Health, Housing and Finance ministries.
“The committee’s report should be our work plan, written by the best people in the field,” Cohen said.
At the press conference, Cohen and Alalouf said the Welfare Ministry funds would be allocated to benefit a number of different issues.
Some NIS 90 million would go toward working grants for single-parent families, an additional 190,000 elderly would benefit from some NIS 320m. in pension income supplements, and NIS 200m. would be allocated toward building daycare centers.
In addition, funds are to be allocated toward centers for the implementation of rights, vocational training for the underprivileged, increasing the maintenance budget for public housing apartments, and funding drugs for needy Holocaust survivors. An additional NIS 230m. would be allocated toward reinforcing the budget for teaching hours in elementary and middle schools in low-income municipalities.