Israel needs to hand out stiffer punishments to perpetrators of violent crime against the elderly as a way of combating an ugly phenomenon that has increased in recent months, Vered Swid, the Prime Minister's adviser on social affairs, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "There is a maximum sentence handed out [to violent criminals], but it is rarely used in cases of assault against the elderly. And there is no set minimum sentence," said Swid, a former mayor of Netanya and a social worker by training. "If a junkie ends up spending 10 years in jail for attacking and robbing an elderly person, then others will think twice about committing such crimes." In recent weeks, following a spate of violent acts against pensioners, Swid has been involved in initiating projects and engaging various government ministries on behalf of the prime minister to recognize the problem and help give a voice to the victims. Official government figures note a rise of 30 percent in the number of violent cases reported by the elderly. "I have spent time with elderly victims, who after an attack are left in a terrible state, with some unable to leave their homes again," she said, adding, "This is the first time that the prime minister is hearing the voices of the victims." According to Swid, she has approached the Interior Ministry, the health funds and the police to step up and take action, with these offices agreeing to make subtle changes that may go a long way towards helping elderly victims of violence. The Prime Minister's Office is also working together with the Ministry for Pensioner's Affairs to develop preventative measures against such violence. Among the changes already initiated by Swid is an agreement from the Interior Ministry to waive charges for re-issuing identity cards that have been stolen during an attack on an elderly person (if that person can confirm with an official police report that the attack took place), while the health services have agreed to allow elderly victims to utilize ambulance and emergency room services for a minimal fee. In addition, said Swid, there must also be an emphasis on tackling violence within society in general. "Education is the basis here - and it does not just include violence against the elderly, but any type of violence," she said, adding that she is hopeful there will be an improvement in the situation in the coming months. Victims of violence can contact Swid directly by fax: 02-677-3653.