By RUTH EGLASH
Some 2,500 children with various disabilities will finally be recognized by the National Insurance Institute and receive a wide range of child disability benefits not available to them in the past after the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approved several key changes to the existing child welfare law on Monday.
Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog, who has been pushing for changes to a 1995 law for the past two years, said he greatly welcomed the move, which would "ease the financial burden of thousands of family who have been paying out of their own pockets for expensive treatments for their children."
Herzog says the changes are a result of an agreement between his ministry, the Treasury and the NII, based on recommendations first made by Hebrew University researcher Prof. Asher Ornoy in 2000.
A spokeswoman for the ministry estimated that the changes, which aim to provide essential therapies, special education frameworks and medical aids to children with disabilities, will cost the government more than NIS 100 million.
Currently, some 27,000 disabled children receive benefits according to the NII's standard medical criteria. Often, however, these criteria do not take into account certain types of disabilities if they are not extreme, said the spokeswoman.
"This is an important step for the NII in its attempt to improve services and provide benefits to additional children," said NII director general Esther Dominissini. "We will continue moving in this direction and work to make sure that these changes really happen."
Labor, Welfare and Health Committee chairman Haim Katz called it "a historical change."
"We have been waiting for these changes for a long time," he said, adding that while it still does not include all families in need of state assistance it is a step in the right direction.
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