Israelis With Multiple Disabilities Struggling for Government Assistance

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Almost half of all people with disabilities - 47 percent - have more than one type of disability, yet many don’t obtain the help needed to cope with their multiple disabilities from government agencies.

“People with disabilities are discriminated against, and this group is discriminated against twice over,” said one mother whose son has a double disability. “Instead of adjusting the service to the disabled person, he is required to adapt himself to the service. And if for any reason it isn’t suitable, the problem is his.”

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee will hold a special meeting on this issue today in honor of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

According to a study published a year ago by the National Insurance Institute and the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, some 1.1 million people with disabilities live in Israel. Of these, 27 percent have two disabilities and 20 percent have three or more. The most common disability combination, the study found, is both a physical and a mental disability.

A joint panel of the health and social affairs ministries divvies up responsibility for handling people with multiple disabilities by determining which disability is the “main” one. Parents who have appeared before the panel say that representatives of both ministries try to shift responsibility for dealing with the applicant onto the other.

“They try to put people into boxes that are convenient for the government,” one mother said. “It’s nonsense. It’s like asking people whether they are more Israeli or more Jewish. How can you even measure such things?”

Sometimes, the conflict is between two different units of the same ministry. Michal Ben-Kochav of Hod Hasharon, for instance, has a daughter with a severe physical disability, a cognitive disability and other health problems. A year ago, she applied to the Social Affairs Ministry for a stipend that covers community care for seriously disabled people.

“I met all the required criteria, but because this stipend is given by the rehabilitation department, which only deals with physical disabilities, whereas my daughter was being handled by the department for mental disabilities, I’m not eligible for the stipend,” she said. “At first, I thought they were joking. It turns out there are no ‘double discounts.’”

Instead, the ministry offered her 30 hours of a caregiver’s services, which it asserted were financially equivalent. Ben-Kochav disputes that assertion. But more important, “I already have a full-time caregiver and don’t need another. So I asked if the hours they agreed to give me could be converted into a cash stipend. The answer was no.”

The Education Ministry said in a response that it “also provides solutions for students with multiple disabilities. A personal study plan is built for every student.”

A response was not received from the Social Affairs Ministry in time for the print deadline.

MK Ilan Gilon. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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