Israel's comprehensive welfare system is based on legislation
which provides for a broad range of national and community services.
Care of the elderly; support programs for single parents, children
and youth; prevention and treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse;
and assistance for new immigrants comprise a large part of available
social services. Correctional services encompass probation frameworks,
remedial programs for school dropouts, and residential and observational
services for youth in distress. Sheltered workshops and employment
counseling are among the rehabilitation services provided for
the blind and physically disabled. The mentally retarded are cared
for through various residential and communitybased programs.
Under the Social Welfare Law (1958), municipalities and local
authorities are required to maintain a department responsible
for the delivery of social services, 75 percent of whose budget
comes from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Nationwide
services such as adoption, probation frameworks and residential
institutions for the mentally retarded are funded and run by the
Ministry. The Ministry determines policy, initiates legislation,
enacts regulations for the operation of social services and supervises
those offered by public and private organizations.
Services supplied by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs:
- Personal & Social Services
- Rehabilitation Services for the Disabled
- Services for the Mentally Handicapped
- Special Services
- Youth Development and Correction
Social Service Personnel
Schools of social work available in most universities offer graduate
and postgraduate training, combining theoretical study with field
work. Governmentoperated programs provide training at centers
throughout the country for child care staff and social work aides,
as well as inservice training for social work professionals.
Community and case workers are employed in various contexts, including
social service bureaus, community centers, immigrant absorption
facilities, motherandchildcare centers, schools,
factories and hospitals.
Care and services for the elderly have become a major component
of Israel's health and social service capabilities. While the
total population has increased sixfold since the country's
establishment, the number of senior citizens (age 65+) has increased
17fold, now representing nearly 10 percent of Israel's 5.6
million inhabitants. Much of this growth has been due to mass
immigration, which peaked during the 1950s and again in the 1990s,
when nearly 700,000 (mainly from the countries of the former Soviet
Union) arrived, more than 12 percent of them aged 65 and over.
Since only about 5 percent of Israel's aged were born in the country,
many had neither the time nor the opportunity to learn Hebrew,
be absorbed in the work force or establish a secure economic foundation
for their old age. Thus many of Israel's elderly, some 13 percent
of whom are disabled, is dependant upon family and community resources.
With planning and supervision under the aegis of the Ministry
of Labor and Social Affairs, delivery of services is channeled
through the social service departments of the local authorities.
Communitybased services for senior citizens, which aim to
preserve their independence at home, include assessment of needs
by a social worker, assisting families caring for an aged person,
senior citizens' clubs, mealsonwheels, sheltered housing,
daycare, medical equipment and transportation. Emphasis
is placed on services for highrisk groups, such as people
without family or adequate incomes.
Several hundred public voluntary bodies complement national and
local health and social services with a wide variety of organizations,
ranging from hospital auxiliaries and rehabilitation agencies
to immigrant associations geared to helping newcomers adjust to
life in Israel. Additional groups address prevailing problems
such as alcoholism, rape and battered women as well as drug and
child abuse; still others deal with social issues like the status
of women, environmental conservation and consumer rights, or with
interests specific to a given group or locality. Campaigns by
voluntary groups, including occasional national telethons, to
collect funds for causes ranging from facilities for the physically
and mentally handicapped to cancer research and soldiers' welfare
are a regular feature of Israeli life. The wellbeing of
people in many sectors of the population has been significantly
improved due to the activities of thousands of volunteers, comprising
Israelis from all walks of life, men and women, young and old.