Social workers anxious about delayed proposals for social welfare reforms

Union head says, "We are just concerned that this delay will have dire implications on the level of service that we are able to provide."

poor 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
poor 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Social workers expressed concern Wednesday that a preliminary report aimed at making far-reaching reforms to the social welfare system had not yet been presented to the Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, even though it was meant to have been ready by the end of last year. "It was the basis of us returning to work after our sanctions last year," David Golan, spokesman for the Social Workers Union, told The Jerusalem Post. "We are just concerned that this delay will have dire implications on the level of service that we are able to provide to the public." According to the union, which represents some 7,000 social workers, the ministry had established a committee to look at how to improve social services and its preliminary report was scheduled to submitted by the end of December. "The committee has been working," said Golan, noting that union representatives have been involved in its discussions. "However, there is still no concrete draft on what shape the reforms should take." Golan told the Post that the two key issues that needed to be dealt with as soon as possible were the casework overload of each social worker, which he estimated was between 200-400 files per person, and the definition of exactly what services social workers should provide. "Many times we have people asking us to help them out with public housing, but that is not our job at all," he explained. "There needs to be a concrete definition of what our role is so that it is clear to everyone." Although the tough conditions and low pay were what pushed social workers to strike for more than two months last summer, Golan said the union was not contemplating further work action. "We are just concerned that the longer these reform deliberations take, the worse the situation will be for those who need our help," he said. "We do believe that the changes will come but we want them to happen as quickly as possible." Couty Sabah, head of the Division for Research and Planning at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, who is responsible for the reform committee, said he had requested an extension for the committee's deliberations because the reform proposals were so wide-ranging that if accepted, they would completely change the social welfare system. "The committee's creation was not just as a result of last year's strike," he said. "It is a process that has been in motion for a long time and we are talking about a complete overhaul of the social welfare system that exists today." Sabah added that the process involved a myriad of subcommittees that focused on certain issues and input from a wide range of experts, academics and professionals from across the country, adding that the report's preparation had been slowed down somewhat because of Operation Cast Lead. "The work on the preliminary report is basically finished except for some fine-tuning in the weeks ahead," he said, adding that after it is presented to Herzog and the ministry's director-general Nachum Itzkovich, the recommendations will have to be evaluated by the Ministerial Committee for Social Welfare.