haredi kids 88.
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The Social Workers Union reacted angrily on Thursday to media reports that the Welfare and Social Services Ministry paid out more than NIS 30 million in additional funding to haredi children's institutions, organizations and charities over the past year, while distributing less than NIS 15m. to similar secular organizations.
The funds, which came from a supplementary budget meant to support nonprofit organizations and was approved by the Finance Ministry three years ago based on coalition agreements, went mainly to support ultra-Orthodox children living and studying in yeshivot, Army Radio reported.
"We are not against haredi children receiving the support they need from the social welfare services," Yitzhak Perry, head of the Social Workers Union in Israel, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. "But there is a criterion that should be followed for every child living away from home in an institution funded by the government."
According to protocol, any child considered at a certain level of risk in their family home can be removed by a state-appointed social worker and sent to live in a group home or boarding school. Children living in such settings receive financial support each month from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry.
"There should be no difference between a haredi and a secular child," continued Perry, who said that ultra-Orthodox children studying in a yeshiva were not usually sent there because they were considered at risk, and their removal from the family home was not approved by state-appointed social workers.
"Support for children studying in yeshivot should not come from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry's budget," he said.
A spokeswoman for the ministry said, however, that billions of shekels were spent each year on projects for children at risk from all segments of the population and that the additional monies received from the support budget also went toward helping haredi children in need.
"The money is for thousands of needy children in the haredi sector who are considered children at risk," she said. "At the end of the day, a child in need is a child in need and must be helped."
Perry said the unfairness stemmed from the way coalition negotiations were handled in general, and specifically from the hesitation by most of the political parties to take the Welfare portfolio.
"The haredi parties are the only ones who want this ministry, because they know that they can use it for their own benefit," he said. "I truly believe that the non-haredi parties have it all wrong and that this ministry can be beneficial to them, too."
Perry said that outgoing Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) was one of the few ministers who had not favored one sector over another.
"At first Herzog could not decide whether to take over this ministry, but when he did, despite all the problems that presented themselves, he realized it was a worthwhile place to be," said Perry. "I just hope that whoever takes over the ministry in the next government will treat all populations in the same way."
United Torah Judaism chairman Ya'acov Litzman said the situation was being misrepresented and blown out of proportion.
"Sadly, the economic situation is only increasing the hardships faced by haredi families," Litzman told the Post. "There are almost no donations coming from abroad, and this way we can help the neediest families."
"I think it is chutzpa that people are questioning whether they should be helped or not, and the social workers are not objective in deciding which children need the help," he said.