Watchdog: Social Workers in Israel Can’t Handle Elderly Caseload

Report also says dozens of local authorities have failed to appoint advisers on senior citizen affairs, as required by law.

Yarden Skop
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A caregiver with an elderly Israeli woman in Tel Aviv (illustrative).
A caregiver with an elderly Israeli woman in Tel Aviv (illustrative). Credit: Ariel Shalit
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Social workers regularly have hundreds of elderly Israelis on their caseload lists, even though they are not required to undergo training on the needs of the geriatric population, according to the state comptroller’s report released Monday.

The report also said that dozens of local authorities have failed to appoint advisers on senior citizen affairs, as required by law.

There were 833,000 senior citizens in Israel last year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. That’s roughly 10 percent of the total population, slightly more than half of whom are women, and that percentage is expected to grow rapidly.

The comptroller’s investigation includes various local authorities as well as the Social Affairs Ministry and the Pensioner Affairs Ministry. Between November 2013 and April 2014, the State Comptroller’s Office looked into community services offered to seniors, and found that there is a large burden on social workers.

The research was conducted in Afula, Baka al-Garbiyeh, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, Midgal Haemek, Modi’in Ilit and Umm al-Fahm, as well as various local councils.

According to the comptroller, the Social Affairs Ministry has not set guidelines for the maximum amount of senior citizens a social worker should handle to guarantee proper professional care. The number of senior citizens being handled by a single social worker varies by region, between 275 and 650; and social workers dealing with the elderly are not required to undergo special training.

It was also determined that local authorities do not undertake efforts to identify seniors in need of social care.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said 56 local authorities had not appointed anyone to serve as adviser for senior affairs, which has been required by law since 1989.

The comptroller also revealed deficiencies in day centers for seniors, which are meant for seniors throughout Israel who can no longer efficiently run their household on their own. These centers provide food, therapy, social services, and cultural and social activities. According to Shapira’s report, most of these centers are run by local senior organizations, although they are funded by the Social Affairs Ministry, the National Insurance Institute and other local authorities.

Also, the comptroller found that many local authorities did not sign any kind of agreement with the organizations running the centers. Some local authorities indeed signed deals leasing land or buildings to the centers on long term leases, but none of them set terms or conditions that the centers have to meet, or basic services that they are required to provide. The comptroller said that in many larger regional councils, seniors are unable to reach the centers due to the long distances and the lack of regular transportation to the centers.

It was also revealed that among the authorities that were investigated, there were 30 needy seniors in Kiryat Shmona without housing, and only four of them had been given public housing.

The comptroller recommended that the Social Affairs Ministry set guidelines for identifying seniors in need of support, and that the local authorities take action to locate elderly residents in need of assistance.

According to the comptroller, it would be appropriate for the Social Affairs Ministry to set a maximum number of individuals from any population (not just seniors) for social workers to handle, in order to improve service. The comptroller also recommended that the Kiryat Shmona municipality work in conjunction with the Jewish Agency and other relevant government ministries to find housing solutions for those in need.



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