Bureaucratic snarl gives headache to parents

The case of a Netanya couple who were both fired from their jobs recently has highlighted a bureaucratic obstacle that will have parents everywhere tearing out their hair in the current economic crisis, reports www.local.co.il. The couple, who have three young children, both lost their jobs in January, and soon after becoming unemployed learned that their reduced income entitled them to discounts from the city at the municipal kindergartens attended by two of their children. But when they applied for the discounts, they were told that the Education Ministry requires that applications for discounts be submitted by August of the preceding year, and that they would not be able to get any discount until the beginning of the next school year in September. According to the report, the case highlights yet another difficulty placed in the paths of women with young children who want to work. With half-day kindergartens costing about NIS 800 per month, and with afternoon care costing an extra NIS 800 or more per month, working parents with young children have to dedicate a considerable portion of their income every month just for their children's care. Parents who lose their jobs often cannot continue to afford the afternoon care, and then with the children at home they find it difficult to work or to look for work. A spokeswoman for the Na'amat women's organization said the main problem for working women was that the short hours and long vacations mandated for municipal kindergartens forces working mothers to pay large additional sums for afternoon and vacation care. She said the organization expected that with the current recession and the wave of firings around the country, "more and more mothers will take their children out of the municipal framework, which will create a wave effect because then the mothers will have difficulty finding work." The report said the parents in the Netanya case were "amazed" to discover the Education Ministry's requirement, and the couple tried to get a ministry exceptions committee to allow the discount, but their request was denied. "My husband and I were fired only in January," the woman said. "I won't need a discount next year, but now, when the bank is returning checks." A Netanya municipal spokesman said the city was doing everything possible to assist parents, and that its afternoon care rates were lower than those of most other cities. No comment was reported from the Education Ministry.