Israeli Cabinet Minister Pledges Bailout Funds for Battered Women’s Shelters

Social Affairs Minister Katz promises 33% hike, ostensibly saving two shelters from closing, but professionals skeptical

File photo: A battered women's shelter in Israel
Tomer Appelbaum

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz announced Sunday that the budgets of Israel’s 14 battered women’s shelters will be raised substantially, after they had begun to reduce services and two were set to close.

According to the announcement, the allotment for each woman who comes to the shelters will be raised 33 percent, from 15,000 shekels ($4,166) a month to 20,000 shekels a month. The new funding will be transferred to the shelters in August and be retroactive to April.

As previously reported by Haaretz, the shelters, which annually house some 1,800 women and children who are victims of domestic violence, have been under severe financial pressure for nearly two years. Today there is a serious gap between the cost of operating the shelters and the funding provided by the government, which covers only 65 percent of their costs. Each shelter needs an additional 300,000 shekels to 800,000 shekels to continue operating, and the shelters have been forced to engage in fundraising to survive.

A year ago the ministry’s director-general acknowledged that the budgets were insufficient, but nothing was done and discussions on the matter dragged on. A few months ago the nonprofit association No to Violence announced it was planning to close two of its shelters because of funding shortfalls.

Shelter directors' doubts stem from past experience with ministry

Shelter directors – who heard about the budget increase from the media – reacted cautiously, wondering if the ministry would make additional demands in return for the increase. They said their concerns stem from past experiences working with the Social Affairs Ministry, since the budgetary crisis is partially the result of the ministry’s steadily raising the standards demanded of the shelters but without providing funding to fulfill them. The current budget does not cover the shelters’ rent or any of the costs associated with caring for the children, and it isn’t clear if the new budgets will cover these costs.

The ministry’s announcement said, “The new rate includes a manpower upgrade that reflects the ministry’s requirements to maintain a professional and comprehensive treatment program, such as personnel who will provide educational and therapeutic solutions for children and for mental health needs.” Katz’s own announcement said, “The tariff update will allow the nonprofits to provide a broader, higher quality service to women and children who had the courage to leave their hellish predicament and are now dealing with a huge crisis and require comprehensive assistance to recover.”

The ministry said the budget per client is meant to cover a woman and two children, and is based on data from 2016 which showed that 38 percent of the women came to the shelters alone while 25 percent came with one child, 19 percent with two children, 10 percent with three kids and 7 percent with four or more children.

“In recent years we are witnessing changes in the types of population and the needs of those who apply or who are referred to receive treatment and protection in the shelters and their situations are more severe and complex than in the past,” said Ayelet Meir, director of the ministry’s Service for the Welfare of the Individual and Family. “Many women come to the shelter after experiencing a trauma, and some ... have difficulty functioning in many areas of life.”