Report: Arab children shortchanged by social services

NGO study: Funding for sector’s at-risk kids at 70% of Jewish peers.

street children egypt 311 (photo credit: The Media Line)
street children egypt 311
(photo credit: The Media Line)
Children at risk in the Arab sector are less likely to get assistance from social welfare services than Jewish children in similar situations, according to a study published on Wednesday by Sikkuy – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.
“The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services operates an unequal policy in caring for Jewish and Arab children at risk,” according to the study, which was presented at the organization’s annual conference in Haifa.
“Inequality between Jews and Arabs in Israel causes grave harm to Arab citizens and is a harsh blow to the principle of equality that should serve as the foundation for government and democracy in Israel,” Ali Haider and Ron Gerlitz, Sikkuy’s coexecutive directors, said at the conference.
The study, titled “Obstacles to Opportunity – Profile of obstacles and policy recommendations toward Arab-Jewish equality in Israel,” “offers an in-depth investigation in various fields revealing a disturbing picture of discrimination and unequal policies,” the two directors said.
Among the main areas examined by Sikkuy researchers for the report were the Welfare Ministry’s policies regarding the care provided for children at risk from birth through age three, including the availability of day care centers for such children in Arab neighborhoods.
“The in-depth investigation and analysis of statistics revealed a disturbing picture of unequal policies and discrimination between Jewish and Arab children at risk,” the study’s authors wrote.
They found that the proportion of at-risk Jewish children in such day care facilities was twice that of Arab youngsters, with one in five Jewish children compared to one out of every 10 Arab children receiving treatment.
The authors also noted a phenomenon of under-identification by the authorities of at-risk Arab children, with 70 percent of Jewish children in poor homes recognized by welfare authorities and only 33% of Arab children in poor homes.
In addition, said the report, the Welfare Ministry’s flagship program for children at risk, known as the Schmidt Plan – which was declared at its launch three years to be an equal-policy program that cares for all citizens – discriminates in funding for Jewish and Arab children.
The average budget per participating Arab child is 70% of the amount earmarked for participating Jewish child, the researcher found, and only 2% of day care centers are in Arab communities.
The researchers also examined the accessibility of the Justice Ministry’s Legal Aid offices to the Arab public and found that the geographic distribution of Legal Aid offices was unequal and does not adequately provide for the needs of the Arab community.
A spokeswoman for the Welfare Ministry wrote in a written response to the report that its policies aim to reduce the gaps in the system that exist between the Jewish and non-Jewish sectors.
“In this regard, the Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog and the ministry’s director- general Nachum Itzkovitz, since entering their positions in April 2007, have launched numerous initiatives to tackle this problem,” the spokeswoman said.
She added that Itzkovitz was present at Wednesday’s conference and highlighted to those attending the efforts of his office to reduce the gaps in treatment between Jews and Arabs, including increasing the number of Arab children at risk in group homes and government-paid transport for children with mental disabilities to day care centers.
Out of around 60 social welfare enrichment centers that opened between 2008 and 2010, 33 were established in Arab neighborhoods, the spokeswoman said. In addition, nine of the 25 community support centers that were opened were in the Arab sector.