Knesset Passes Preliminary Approval to Allow Social Workers More Time for Each Client

Social workers in the country can now hold a maximum of 60 cases at a time compared to the current 250 at once, which will help combat poverty; the government, which had initially refused to back the bill.

Social workers demonstrating in November 2015 in front of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem.
Emil Salman

The Knesset yesterday gave preliminary approval to an opposition bill that would reduce the number of cases a social worker handles at one time to 60. The 44-42 vote was an embarrassment for the government, which earlier this week had refused to back the bill.

The bill, submitted by Yesh Atid MK and former social affairs minister Meir Cohen, was based on a recommendation made by the Alaluf Committee to Fight Poverty, headed by Eli Alaluf, now a Kulanu MK. Alaluf abstained in the vote, which helped contribute to the coalition defeat. Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz was not present for the vote, either. The bill now goes to the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee for debate.

Today, full-time social workers in welfare departments juggle between 200-250 cases on average, according to the Osim Shinui association of social work students and Atideinu, a social workers’ advocacy group. This creates such a backlog that at times allows them to respond only to emergency situations, the groups say.

“This is important news for social workers and Israel’s welfare system,” said Cohen. “Responsibility trumped politics.”

Safra Dweck, chairman of the Social Workers Association, agreed. “The Knesset today, perhaps for the first time in its history, voted in favor of the weak populations. This law will give social workers the tools to give good service to the populations they serve.”

Katz and the social workers have been working on a plan to reduce social workers’ caseloads without legislation, and the minister has taken steps to help improve working conditions by adding social worker slots in some areas.

After the vote, Katz expressed support for the spirit of the bill on his Facebook page, writing, “This law aims to benefit the social workers and fits in with the policy I’ve been promoting.”