State Comptroller praises public complaints office in handling rights of elderly

Ten percent of the Israeli population today is elderly, but one fifth live under “miserable conditions.”

Elderly woman looks out of window [illustrative] (photo credit: Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)
Elderly woman looks out of window [illustrative]
(photo credit: Ivan Alvarado / Reuters)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira outlined numerous incidents of complaints regarding the rights of the elderly in a report on public complaints released on Tuesday.
According to the report the extended life span and waves of aliya have brought a dramatic increase in the number of elderly living in Israel today, which comprise some 10 percent of the population, of which, one fifth live under “miserable conditions” and depend on aid received from the state to survive.
The State Comptroller, in the report, divided the responsibility for providing services to the elderly between the authorities, mainly the welfare and social services, health, and senior citizens ministries as well as the National Insurance Institute and local municipalities.
However, the report outlined numerous incidents in which the public complaints office assisted elderly people, whose rights were ignored or dismissed by the relevant authorities.
According to the report, in each case the public complaints office intervened and assisted the elderly in realizing their rights.
“The Public Complaints Office handles many complaints every year concerning the rights of the elderly, and does everything possible to help this population,” Shapira wrote.
In one incident, the National Insurance Institute did not award supplemental income grants to an elderly man who was entitled to such rights.
Only following a lengthy bureaucratic process, with the intervention of the public complaints office, during which time the man died, did the NII award his widow some NIS 11,279 – to which he was entitled.
In another incident an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor with a valid certificate of blindness was charged a fee for the delivery of mail by the Israel Postal Service, despite being exempt from such charges.
The public complaints office examined the incident and found the man had been deprived of his rights in part because he did not speak proper Hebrew and was unable to communicate his needs to the postal office representative.
According to the report, “many older people, especially those that cannot speak Hebrew, do not know of their rights, and the inability to realize their rights further increases their economic distress.”
In another incident, a 73-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was also not fluent in Hebrew asked the Ramle Municipality for monetary assistance in buying a bed for his wife, who was paralyzed. The municipality, which according to social work regulations may assist in buying basic necessities for the needy, rejected his request. Only following an inquiry – which lasted months – by the public complaints office, during which time his wife slept on a broken bed, did the man receive NIS 1,000 for a new bed.