“It is time for the government to inform citizens of their rights and not ask them to search for what they are due.”
“It is inconceivable that hundreds of thousands of Israelis who might be able to increase their monthly income are not doing so just because the information that needs to reach them is stuck in government offices. It is time to move onto `rights realization,’” says YEDID the nonprofit that is celebrating 20 years of activity this year.
At the end of the month, YEDID will hold a conference to present data on non-take up of rights, including the obstacles faced by individuals and families to getting the rights they are entitled to by law from different government offices.
According to Ran Melamed, Deputy Director of Social Policy at YEDID, hundreds of millions of shekels are waiting for Israeli citizens in different government offices. These are rights to which people are entitled to, not charity.
Unfortunately, there is a large gap between the fact that these rights exist and their receipt by deserving citizens. This gap derives from:
Inadequate advertising by government offices
Bureaucratic obstacles preventing people from submitting applications
Obstacles to access - preventing people from even applying for the rights
Lack of access (linguistic/cultural) preventing people from even knowing about the existence of these rights and consequently how to submit applications
The fact that most of the rights can be obtained only after submitting a request and not through proactive approach by the government.
Do you want to know where the money is? Here are some examples:
Bituach Leumi (National Insurance)
More than a billion and a half shekels are waiting for you in different departments of Bituach Leumi. This is not only about disability payments and chronic medical conditions but about helping families in distress, basic subsistence allowances, assistance in adapting residential buildings to people with disabilities and more.
Ministry of Construction and Housing
One hundred and forty thousand Israelis receive rental subsidies every year. There are tens of thousands of additional families who are entitled to receive subsidies but cannot receive them due to obstacles relating to guarantees / collateral they are required to pay. In addition, the fact that the amount of the financial help has not been updated in the last ten years has caused many citizens financial distress since they cannot realize their rights.
At the end of the day, there are tens of millions (of shekels) which are not being used by the office.
Ministry of Labor and Ministry Social Affairs
Subsidized camps for single mothers. The Unit for Employment in Offices provides a subsidy of approximately NIS 1,000 per child in the framework of summer camps. The aim is to assist mothers who are not only in financial distress, but also to compensate for a loss of work days and even dismissal resulting from the need to be with their children. The problem – the criteria which are imposed, and the lack of publicity prevent many mothers from knowing they even have the right to receive the money. Also regarding retraining - many unemployed are required to pay in order to get into the profession they are interested in. Being unemployed and without extra income, they simply waive their rights to learn a new profession and progress in life.
Electricity Company - IEC
According to the law which Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon passed while serving as a member of Knesset, the Electricity Company is required to give discounts to different population groups. The number of consumers entitled to discounts stands at 120,000. Out of these, only 90,000 actually receive the discount. Why? Because not enough effort is being made to locate them. How much are they losing? Approximately 200 shekels a month per eligible person.
Work Grant (Negative Income Tax)
More than 150,000 families were found to be eligible for a work grant from the Tax Authority – a budget of 200 million shekels per year. However, only 70% were actually taking advantage of this. There is an attempt to be proactive– by sending letters to people – but still 30% do not utilize their rights to this.
There is no doubt that there has been some positive change here. The Authority for Holocaust Survivors in the Ministry of Finance does important work including going to the homes of survivors who are house-bound, attempts to move to `rights realization,' for example, on the issue of one-time grants to immigrants from North Africa and other countries by creating a hot- line and more. At the same time, there are quite a few survivors who do not receive what they deserve simply because there are so many organizations that deal with their cause.
YEDID, has initiated a national project for 200,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel. Someone will go to the home of each survivor and check exactly what each person is receiving, what they are entitled to and if there are things needed.
Prior to the discussion about a proposed law in the Knesset to establish rights centers adjacent to municipal welfare offices (MK Eli Alaluf), YEDID maintains that one of the basic things that needs to be done is to ensure that rights realization is in the curriculum in all places of higher education in Israel that train social workers. In addition, social workers at municipal welfare offices should be required to deal with realization of rights as a matter of routine.
In addition, it should be remembered that there are many low income Israelis who will not approach municipal welfare departments for assistance due to the stigma attached. The state of Israel needs to produce different solutions and assistance for them.