A ministerial panel is expected to approve a bill on Sunday that would, for the first time, grant female victims of domestic violence a state-funded set of benefits after they leave a crisis shelter.
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At present, those leaving women’s shelters are entitled to a one-time grant, even though a third of women will eventually return to a shelter.
According to the new bill before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the state will grant women a package of benefits, including occupational training and subsidized day care, and will also nearly double the “halfway housing” available.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz both support the bill, which was framed by Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon with the assistance of the Jerusalem Shelter for Battered Women.
A total of 7 million shekels ($1.8 million) has been allocated to it in next year’s budget.
There are currently 14 centers in Israel, overseen and funded by the Social Affairs Ministry, for female victims of domestic violence. Over the course of 2015, some 750 women stayed at these shelters – a 20 percent increase from the previous year. During their time at the shelter, the women receive food, treatment and protection. When they leave, though, many are unable to rehabilitate themselves and subsequently return to abusive domestic situations.
According to data from a four-year study at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, some 30 percent of women will return to shelters.
Women are currently allowed to stay at the shelters for up to a year. When they leave, current legislation gives them a one-time grant of 8,000 shekels and 1,370 shekels rent assistance for up to three years.
The package of benefits to be offered to women leaving a shelter includes occupational counseling and a skills assessment; assistance from a social worker to help maximize the benefits to which they are entitled; supplemental income if their salary doesn’t reach a certain level; and subsidized day care for one year.
“Without this help, the heavy burden that falls on their shoulders sends them back [to a violent home situation], and many others to debt and stresses that do not allow them to enjoy a healthier life with their children,” said Galon.
The bill also wants to increase the number of apartments in halfway homes for women. At present there are only 10 such apartments, with the bill calling for the establishment of eight more. Women will be able to stay with their children in these apartments for six months to a year. During this time they will receive intensive treatment and their needs will be fully funded, including psychological counseling and assistance for their children.
Over the past year, a number of nonprofits operating shelters for victims of domestic violence have asked the Social Affairs Ministry to prepare such a plan as envisaged by the bill.
“One of the complex issues that has yet to be methodically studied is the ‘seam’ between a woman’s stay at the shelter and acclimation in the community after she leaves,” Dina Hevlin Dahan, director of a crisis shelter for women, wrote in a position paper for the Social Affairs Ministry. “When a woman comes out of a shelter, where her needs are met 24 hours a day, along with economic difficulties, she usually encounters terrible loneliness, which could lead some women to fall back into a relationship with their abuser or a new abuser.”
The Social Affairs Ministry said that the ministry will also be presenting the cabinet with a comprehensive program to fight family violence. “Family violence is a plague affecting all sectors of society. We must ensure that women who have experienced such great physical and emotional pain are cared for and given the means for rehabilitation,” Social Affairs Minister Katz told Haaretz.