Israel Stalls on Aiding Austistic People

The cabinet's postponement of recommendations made by interministerial committee dampens expectations raised by Netanyahu's pre-election commitments.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

The Social Affairs Ministry Sunday issued a statement that the cabinet unanimously accepted one of the recommendations of a committee dealing with austistic people. However, the recommendation that the cabinet actually accepted was to put off a decision on the matter for seven months.

Sundays’s decision follows an announcement two weeks before the election by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government would put together a special plan for dealing with autistic people, whose numbers in Israel have doubled within the past decade.

An interministerial committee was to be appointed and headed by the director general of the Social Affairs Ministry, which was to submit its recommendations within 60 days to the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office. The committee was to determine what the central needs of Israel’s autistic people and their families were; what key action needed to be taken to meet and fund these needs; how to coordinate the systems and processes in the actions of various government ministries dealing with autistic people, and whether new legislation was needed.

On Sunday the cabinet was to have approved the recommendations of the committee, consisting of representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of welfare, education, health, finance and the director general of the National Insurance Institute.

However, the cabinet decision of Sunday reads: “The cabinet notes the proposed plan by the interministerial committee for regulating [matters pertaining to] the autistic population.” It also details the needs of this group, including a central diagnostic facility, development of a basket of services, coordination of ministries, funding, research and others. Sunday’s decision makes no mention of how these needs are to be addressed or funded.

The legal adviser to the Social Affairs Ministry wrote in a document appended to the cabinet decision that “since the committee has so far only managed to put together recommendations, another cabinet decision is needed for an extension.” Sunday’s decision gave the committee another three months to come up with a “detailed report” and until October to compile a “final report,” which will include discussion of funding. It was also decided to establish a ministerial committee to report on the progress of development of a “five-year plan” to deal with the autistic population.

According to the National Insurance Institute, there are some 9,000 autistic children in Israel up to age 18.

The Social Affairs Ministry responded that “these are interim conclusions. The committee formulated an outline acceptable to all parties. Costs will be discussed in the 2013-2014 budget.”

A demonstration organized by parents of autistic children in Be'eer Sheva. 27 of December 2012.Credit: Ilan Assayag

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