Allocations by the Social Affairs Ministry to needy families through local welfare departments in 2016 totaled 44 million shekels ($11.8 million), according to an official document prepared by its department of welfare services for individuals and families, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz.
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Around 1.3 million individuals receive assistance from the ministry, meaning that each person received less than 35 shekels a year from the ministry.
The ministry funding through municipal welfare departments is meant for the purchase, according to the document, of necessities these people would not otherwise be able to afford, including “medical needs, equipment and children’s needs.”
Moreover, the ministry relies on an annual donation of 30 million shekels from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a private charity.
Social workers who spoke with Haaretz said aid is approved for only a small number of particularly desperate families, “a moment before they are thrown out of their homes,” as one social worker put it. One family that was about to be evicted received rental assistance for two months. In another case, a local welfare department stopped paying for transportation to and from a hospital for a woman with disabilities because “the budget is used for more urgent needs.”
The IFCJ’s 30 million shekel contribution is put at the disposal of the welfare departments of some of Israel’s 200 poorest communities, to be used as they see fit, in effect filling the vacuum left by the ministry’s meager funding.
A document prepared by the IFCJ in preparation for a Tuesday discussion in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee states: “Almost two million people in Israel live in poverty and cannot fund basic needs critical for daily life. But most of the welfare workers in Israel depend on nongovernmental organization [to assist] their clients. The state must take back responsibility for its residents and increase aid.”
A panel headed by MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu), now the chairman of the committee, recommended two and a half years ago increasing this funding from about 50 million shekels to between 200 million shekels and 500 million shekels.
Alalouf told Haaretz that the committee will discuss whether the ministry’s funding to local welfare departments is being fully utilized, how the money is allocated among communities and the criteria for receiving aid.
In an IFCJ survey from December 2016 of 494 poor people in Israel, 68 percent of respondents said they had to forgo buying food at least once in the past year due to a lack of money, while 52 percent said they forwent medical treatment, dental care of the purchase of prescription drugs. And 30 percent reported the absence of basic home items, such as a bed for each family member, a sofa, a kitchen table or a wardrobe.