Menomadin Foundation Presents: The Right to Good Welfare
At a festive press conference held in Jerusalem, following a two-year research and development work process, Menomadin Foundation’s Founder and President, Haim Taib, submitted the roadmap for a reform in the Israeli welfare system to the Israeli Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs, Meir Cohen. The program, titled the Right to Good Welfare, is “an applicative, budgeted program, connected to the field—to the pains and actual needs of sensitive populations—tailored to Israeli society,” said Taib at the collaborative press conference held by the Menomadin Foundation and the Israel Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs upon the submission occasion.
The program, compiled by welfare experts in various fields, was headed by Prof. John Gal, Principal Researcher and Welfare Policy Program Chair at Taub Center, and researcher Shavit Madhala. Minister Cohen declared that the first steps towards fruition have already been taken: “Over the past year, the program’s recommendations had become policies, starting with the enactment of The Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law, and followed by the transition into flexible funding method at the social welfare departments.”
The program is a 392-page compilation of academic research backed by up-to-date data and novel yet proven practical, feasible, and successful recommendations, accompanied by an orderly detailed budget. Emphasizing the program’s applicability was also evident in a speech given by Menomadin Foundation CEO, Dr. Merav Galili. She guaranteed that the foundation, “will do anything within our power to prevent this roadmap from becoming a recommendation book gathering dust on a shelf. The Menomadin Foundation developed professional impact management, monitoring, and measurement tools and will work with the ministry to promote an optimal implementation and impact of our reform, the Right to Good Welfare.”
With the submission of the program and the initial steps of the journey to its implementation as a long-term policy for the state of Israel—such that does not depend on elections and government exchanges—we wish to present you with the story of the strategic-practical program: The Right to Good Welfare.
Good Welfare: a Necessity for a Resilient Society
In today’s neoliberal and capitalist world, state welfare system has loosed its holding. In such a socioeconomic atmosphere, it is hard to even justify its existence. But since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in February, 2020, and spread from China throughout the globe, human society has been learning some important lessons about the role of welfare in our life. With the outbreak of COVID-19, we were all forced to deal with countless physical and mental effects: our senior generations suffering from unbearable loneliness; anxiety and depression from which no one can escape; more and more school children drinking and smoking; domestic violence, particularly towards women and children, is on the rise; aviation and tourism teams, high-tech workers, freelancers—thousands of newly-unemployed who require economic and emotional support to bear the present and future insecurity. Under normal circumstances, more than a million Israelis depend on the welfare system to lead a decent life. The COVID-19 pandemic shook everything and everyone, and the understanding of how much we all need a good welfare system became crystal clear.
In that moment of clarity in the early days of 2020, the initiative began to form in Taib’s mind, and he decided to embark on a journey that, as he attests, “is the first comprehensive attempt in the past 50 years to consolidate a program that will generate a holistic and long-term reform in Israel welfare services.” This complex national mission to lead a strategic-practical process of the reform consolidation—which takes into consideration many of Israel’s social welfare anchors—was entrusted by Taib at the hands of Dr. Merav Galili and the Menomadin Foundation. Menomadin took the reins and recruited eminent professionals in the welfare realm, academics and practitioners, central and municipal government employees, and representatives of the target populations—those who need and utilize the welfare system. This is a significant point to which we will soon return.
A Framework: From Start to Finish
The field and research team partnered with the Haruv Institute and a research group from the School of Social Work of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and set out on a methodic and comprehensive thinking process about the Israeli welfare system. This starting point in itself is not trivial; from the country’s inception, the Israeli welfare system, as elaborated in the program’s introduction, has been evolving in response to the challenges of the hour—massive immigration waves, austerity, economic depression, wars, or dominant economic perception exchanges. Patch upon patch, our welfare system became what it is today: a system which suffers consistently from lack of personnel and resources. At its core are the social workers, who do the heavy lifting for the Israeli society yet suffer unreasonable loads and inappropriate working conditions. The ever-growing dependence on outsourcing its services to the private sector and insufficient supervision on these institutes, often confuse their line of duty with their bottom line, frequently resulting in poor, unprofessional response, extremely inconsistent with their importance. Israel’s welfare system, not without justification, suffers from such low public esteem that, many times, those in need of its aid are reluctant to approach it.
Therefore, in the 11 chapters of the program, the team marked the principal challenges that the welfare system is due to tackle today and is expected to be confronted with in the future. One chapter is dedicated to a comprehensive review of current super-trends in the Israeli welfare system, and another is dedicated to across-the-field recommendations. The following eight chapters each elaborate on specific subjects or targeted sensitive populations, written by the experts of each of these realms—outsourcing, poverty, employment, people with disabilities, the family, at-risk children and youth, law-breaking juveniles, and the elderly. Each chapter surveys the current state of affairs, points out central challenges, and presents a set of practical recommendations with an appropriate budget allocation. The program concludes with an appendix that brings together the entire budgeted items and the program’s overall cost. Even during the program’s consolidation process, its creators devoted great efforts to promoting their ideas and recommendations among policymakers and field professionals.
From Central to Local
True, the budget shortage is critical. Israel’s public expenditure on social welfare is low. The program’s compilers conducted cross-national comparisons and showed that in 2020 Israel’s social investment summed up with around 19.5B NIS, 16% of the country’s GPD, compared to an average of 20% in OECD countries. After consolidating the entirety of the recommendations, the program advises an additional budget of 6B NIS per year, which in a decade is expected to grow to more than 7B NIS in correlation with population growth, among other factors. The missions are abundant, and the resources are limited, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Menomadin and its partners. Hence, its policy proposals are bound to be effective and aimed at achieving the best outcome through optimal utilization of the existing resources at the welfare system’s disposal.
Appendix 2 presents the estimated additional budget required from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs to implement the program’s recommendations. But it’s not just about money, and money alone could not bring the substantial longed-for social change. Following the program book’s structure, we chose to bring examples on two levels: First, we picked topics from the opening chapters that attest to the in-depth social changes that the program seeks to accomplish. To complete the picture, we brought examples of challenges and changes in the specific level regarding a targeted population. Through both, we aspired to demonstrate how the values, the practical, and the specifics interlock to generate the prospected impact.
The required change to the way the system, its values, and its attention to special populations is perceived is apparent even in the program’s title—the Right to Good Welfare, reflecting the idea of welfare as a human right. This means that an individual is entitled to adequate welfare services, and the state is obliged to provide them. This notion is essentially different from the outdated perception of welfare as a charity as defined by the Welfare Services Law, which despite having been conceived in 1958 is still in use today. That is not a matter of semantics but rather a change in norms that has practical and statutory implications. Appendix 3 reveals how perceptions of welfare as a human right have led countries like Britain, Sweden, and The Netherlands to enact more comprehensive legislation that better protects the individual’s right to welfare services.
Another moral guiding point is the program’s recommendation to transfer most of the responsibility for providing welfare services from the central to local government and to create solutions on a community level. This issue is especially significant in Israel, country made up of a variety of nationalities, religions, ethnicities, and cultural groups, each requiring responses and intervention adjustments following its norms, values, and sensitivities. This approach also expresses a profound change that has been taking place in Israel and throughout the Western world: the demand to not exclude special populations but to include them as equal citizens in social life.
Social and Individual Intertwine
Leading a moral-social change is bound with field-level action, as apparent in each of the program’s chapters that focus on a specific issue or targeted population. Reviewing the seventh chapter, titled Social Services for People with Disabilities, we’ll demonstrate how the essence translates into actions and how actions re-influence practiced and accepted perceptions of our society. A fact worth mentioning is that two experts with complementing skill sets joined forces to compose this chapter: Dr. Roni Holler, a senior lecturer and researcher in the academy, and Yoav Kreim, one of Israel’s prominent activists for people with disabilities. A comprehensive status presentation underlines a paradigmatic and profound change that is occurring in our society’s perceptions of people with disabilities today. It is shifting from seeing such individuals as incapable of adjusting to the normal conduct of society, into perceiving society as the responsible party for adjusting itself to accommodate to the needs of people with disabilities, remove barriers and enable them to live independently as equal citizens in the community.
Indeed, noble principles and values, yet their implementation and application are still deficient. Among other hurdles, the writers note that contemporary welfare services in Israel are not statutory, which makes it hard for individuals to demand and get them rightfully and equally. Moreover, the majority of the welfare system’s services are still aimed at groups, per disability, instead of personalized services custom to each applicant’s needs and wants. In most cases, extra-communal institutions provide these services, and most of the system’s funding goes to them.
Therefore, in the center of this realm’s reform stands the recommendation to legislate The Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law (2022) recently enacted by the Israeli parliament, as mentioned by Minister Cohen. Following the program’s recommendations, this law establishes a list of services to which people with disabilities are entitled. In addition, the authors propose to deflect funding from the institutional services to preexisting individual-oriented services, which in turn need to be developed and fostered. Such individualized funding places the control at the hands of the service consumers.
The negligible weight given by the welfare system today to its applicants’ wishes is not exclusive to specific services, but is the nature of its service-providing mechanism to this population. Usually, the decision to provide or not to provide a service is at the hands of professional committees or is otherwise an individual decision of a single official. The program aspires to ground “nothing about us—without us” as the welfare system’s guiding principle to service deliverance. The authors recommend, for example, extending community-housing opportunities, so that more applicants can choose to benefit from it. They are adamant that this kind of social investment would not only promote the realization of the desired values—human dignity, independence, and the right to equality—but also enable the materialization of the potential contribution of people with disability to society, community, and economy.
In-depth, in Details, and Across the Field
The programs’ roadmap is expected to lead our welfare system and society to successfully embark on present missions and upcoming expected complex challenges. The marked targets aim to deliver an in-depth influence, lateral and far-reaching impact and take into account demographic, social, and political factors. The goals and refined recommendations of the authors are practical and attainable and cover all levels, from society and community to family and individual. Being comprehensive, knowledge- and data-oriented, detailed, and budgeted—designs the reform to be resilient and overcome any political considerations or government or ministerial exchange, and hence it can be at the policymakers’ disposal no matter their political views or party affiliation.
From the program arises the unique position of the welfare system as the sole Agent that can lead this massive change, create social resilience, and reform the state of Israel as one of the world’s exemplary welfare states. On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, the Menomadin Foundation is committed to helping Israel achieve the impact of a reformed and working welfare system through the realization of its program, the Right to Good Welfare.