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Failure by government authorities to adequately share information and a lack of
clear guidelines for local authorities and social workers leave hundreds of
minors and elderly citizens at risk for abuse and neglect, according to a report
published by the State Comptroller on Tuesday.
According to the section
on care for society’s most vulnerable populations, specifically children and the
elderly, the report found that vital information from the police, hospitals, the
education system and even from the general public about individuals who might be
at risk for abuse or neglect is simply not reaching welfare officers.
addition, the report, which investigated the efforts of six municipalities to
provide protection and treatment for children and the elderly considered at
risk, found that youth welfare officers and the welfare departments in general
lacked clear guidelines from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services on how
to receive information and follow up on it.
The State Comptroller called
on the ministry to update its operating procedures and, more importantly, follow
up with other bodies on recommendations made nearly two years ago.
State Comptroller’s Office views with severity the poor communications between
the police, hospitals and health clinics and the Departments of Welfare and
Social Services in the local municipalities,” wrote the report’s
“This means that hundreds of people are not receiving the help
and treatment that they need.
“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of
the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services to care for the elderly and for
minors and these points must be addressed immediately,” concluded the
Spotlighting social welfare departments in Holon, Kiryat Malachi,
Ramle, Haifa, Or Yehuda and Bat Yam, the State Comptroller criticized the lack
of training for teachers on how to recognize signs of abuse or neglect, and the
fact that municipalities have not raised awareness among the general public that
it’s the responsibility of all citizens to report suspected abuse. The report
also noted that there are few channels for those interacting with children to
pass information to social workers.
This situation, pointed out the
report, comes nearly two years after a welfare ministry report emphasized that
children at risk should take precedent over the right to individual privacy and
more than 1.5 years after the Ministerial Committee for Welfare and Social
Services proposed legislation to enable those who encounter cases of child abuse
to immediately share the information with welfare officers.
“It is not
enough for the welfare ministry to make these recommendations, there must also
be attempts to implement them too,” the report said.
Comptroller added that the findings painted a worrisome picture in which large
numbers of reports from the police and the health authorities on neglect or
abuse are not reaching welfare officers in the local authorities and therefore
little is being done to follow up on potentially life threatening
“These findings are not surprising,” said David Golan,
spokesman for the social worker’s union. “Social workers can only do their jobs
if they have the information; without information they are not able to find the
families and help them.”
Golan emphasized that the flow of information
had to come from the education system, the police and the hospitals to the
social workers and not the other way around.
In contrast, Dr. Yitzhak
Kadman, Executive Director of the National Council for the Child, said he found
the report’s findings truly shocking.
“This report should create an
earthquake and nothing less,” he said, highlighting that it demonstrated how
children at risk are victims several times over.
“First, they are victims
of those who are abusing them and second, they are victims of those who are
supposed to be helping them,” said Kadman. “Apparently, the social services
defense network meant to help them is nothing but a big black
Specific cases highlighted by the State Comptroller’s Office
referred to numerous reports of suspected abuse or neglect of minors sent by the
police from hospitals and clinics to the welfare departments in local
authorities that simply did not arrive.
Those reports that did arrive
were followed up on only months later.
The audit also noted a lack of
adequate follow-up by social workers treating the elderly, both those living
alone and those in old age homes, with Ramle social workers only fulfilling 30
percent of required home visits and social workers in Holon only 17%.
spokeswoman for the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services responded that
several key changes had already been implemented over the past few years to
improve the cooperation social workers, youth welfare officers and local
Among the changes, she said, were more than 100 new
protocols and regulations aimed at strengthening the interaction between social
workers and the communities they assist.
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