(photo credit: Yaniv Berman/Royalrat Productions)
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog on Sunday unveiled what he called his ministry's "flagship program" to increase the number of social welfare and educational services to treat more than 350,000 children and youth considered at risk over the coming years.
Representatives of some 59 municipal councils gathered in Jerusalem to receive essential information about the program, which was designed by a specially formed inter-ministerial committee for Children at Risk set up last January by the Prime Minister's Office and taken over by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry in the spring.
The ministry handed out a specially designed training manual, offering more than 600 different ideas for treating children from birth up to age 18, as well as several projects for assisting parents.
"The key here is that the budget does not come from within the local authority's individual budget but is a separate fund," said ministry spokesman Nahum Ido, highlighting that the 2008 state budget had already allotted up to NIS 200 million for the first phase of the program, which will initially be spread out over the next three years. There were additional sums to keep successful individual projects running after those three years are up, he said.
Both Herzog and Education Minister Yuli Tamir addressed the conference, speaking of the urgency of identifying problems early on in life in an attempt to reach children before they become "at risk."
"There is an emphasis on trying to reach young children before they get into trouble," Ido told The Jerusalem Post. "One of the central initiatives is called New Beginnings."
Sunday's conference was the first day of training for local authority staff, who will now set up steering committees in their own areas tailoring the various programs to suit their community's specific needs.
Six government ministries - Education, Immigrant Absorption, Internal Security, Health and Interior - were involved in drawing up the recommended programs, which was spurred by the findings of the Schmidt Committee for Children.
Ido said the Welfare and Social Services Ministry was hopeful that the majority of programs would be up and running during the next year.
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