Report card: Herzog's proposals and promises and how they fared

He recommended that legislation be passed making it compulsory for parents to bring their young children for twice yearly check-ups.

By
March 29, 2009 21:43
Report card: Herzog's proposals and promises and how they fared

Isaac Herzog 88 248. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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  • 1 Proposal: Compulsory visits to Tipat Halav (well-baby clinics) for preschoolers. In the weeks following the disappearance of Rose Pizem in August 2008, Herzog declared that there was not enough supervision of parents as the raised their children from infancy until they reached school. He recommended that legislation be passed making it compulsory for parents to bring their young children for twice yearly check-ups to the nationwide Tipat Halav clinics run by the Health Ministry. Result: Herzog established an interministerial committee, including representatives from the Health and Education ministries and headed by Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nahum Itzkovich to look into the matter. The committee, which has yet to publish its findings, has been examining a similar model in England and working on improving communication between all the government bodies. New legislation will most likely be drafted in this area.
  • 2 Proposal: Increase the number of Child Investigators. One of the complaints voiced by the striking social workers las fall was the shortage of child investigators - social workers permitted to interview child victims of violent abuse or those who have witnessed horrific crimes - in the field. According to the Social Workers Union, some 700 children were waiting to be interviewed by child investigators, whose caseloads were extreme. Result: According to the social workers, the number of child investigators has not been increased since the low numbers were made public six months ago. They say the problem lies with the Finance Ministry's refusal to approve any more slots to hire them.
  • 3 Proposal: A children's trust fund to be created for every baby. The idea was based on similar government-run trust funds recently initiated in Britain and the US. Herzog's proposal, which was backed by the National Insurance Institute, would mean that every baby born here would have a savings account opened in his or her name, with any additions to the basic child allowances being directly funneled into it. Children from low-income families will also receive an automatic financial bonus at birth. Result: The plan went nowhere, as it did not pass the cabinet.
  • 4 Proposal: To create an information center for Holocaust survivors. The goal of the center is to help survivors and their families navigate through the government bureaucracy to find out exactly what type of benefits, compensation and assistance they are entitled to. Result: The center, a combined project of several ministries backed by the Prime Minister's Office, opened in February to great fanfare. However, many of the groups working with survivors claim that it is still not working efficiently and one group has even asked the State Comptroller to look into its service.
  • 5 Proposal: To overhaul the National Insurance Institute. Not long after taking office, Herzog declared his intention to make the NII more client-friendly by increasing manpower and instilling a general change of attitude towards the public. Result: Last year, Herzog replaced NII director-general Yigal Ben-Shalom with former Employment Service head Esther Dominissini. In her year as director-general, Dominissini has managed to push through some changes in the office.
  • 6 Promise: To expand the hours of the IBA's Amharic-language broadcasts. Result: Nothing has changed regarding Amharic public radio, but the IBA did appoint its first Ethiopian-born head of department with Tsege Melaku becoming director of Israel Radio's mainstream culture channel, Reshet Aleph.
  • 7 Promise: To tackle poverty as number of poor children jumped to 35.8%. In September 2007 and throughout his time in the ministry, Herzog promised to tackle poverty on all levels. Result: He set up several committees to make recommendations on how to fight this complicated and deep-rooted problem. But, as many of the charities working in the field will attest, there have not been sweeping improvements for most of those well below the poverty line. A recent National Poverty Index compiled by the NII did show that the number of poor seemed to have stabilized, but that data has likely been made obsolete by the current recession. In the area of food security, Herzog set up an interministerial committee made up of professionals from the social work and health fields. But he was still in negotiations with the Finance Ministry to secure a NIS 50 million budget to provide the country's neediest with basic food aid.
  • 8 Proposal: To create a plan that would improve the economic conditions for single mothers. Presented in November 2007, the plan was aimed at guaranteeing a certain level of child support and other benefits to single mothers who wanted to study. The situation had been that when a single mother on welfare began a course of study, she would automatically forfeit her monthly benefits, including rent subsidies and city tax discounts. Result: Herzog worked with the NII to change this regulation, and the change went into effect just over a year ago.
  • 9 Proposal: To establish a research center with the Burton Blatt Institute of Syracuse University. BBI is one of the world's leading research institutes that focuses on ways to advance the civic, economic and social participation of people with disabilities. Herzog's goal was to forge a partnership with the BBI to find ways to advance the status of the disabled in Israel. Result: The research center is currently being set up as a joint venture of the ministry and academia. It is hoped that the research conducted by the new center will result in programs that will provide both the physically and mentally disabled with the tools to improve their living situations.
  • 10 Proposal: To ensure local authorities provide disabled infants with free transportation to suitable day-care centers. Result: This was approved by the government and is in the process of being implemented by most local authorities.
  • 11 Promise: To protect social workers from abuse by violent clients. In June 2007, following a spate of violent attacks on social workers, Herzog vowed to increase their security and change regulations regarding the treatment of certain clients. Result: Some of the country's most problematic offices were immediately fitted with security cameras and reinforced doors, to prevent clients from walking in unannounced. According to the Social Workers Union, Herzog made every effort to install these and other security measures nationwide, but the cost was simply too high.
  • 12 Proposal: To change guidelines for child welfare officers to make the system fair to both mothers and fathers. In March, following the publication of divorce and custody-battle statistics by the ministry, Herzog said he would look into ways of making the system fairer to fathers, many of whom nowadays want to be deeply involved with their young children. Currently, the Tender Years Presumption Law (1967) presumes the mother should look after children until the age of six unless the court is convinced she is incapable of doing so. Result: In April 2008, Herzog pressured the interministerial committee charged with reviewing the law to wind up its deliberations, after it had been sitting for more than two years. Herzog replaced the head of the committee and it published its findings soon after, calling on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to revoke the over 40-year-old law and replace it with a more gender-equal alternative. Furthering new legislation, however, is the hands of the Justice Ministry, a Herzog spokeswoman said.

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