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Under the Social Welfare Law (1958), municipalities and local authorities are required to maintain a department responsible for 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 developmentally challenged 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.
Schools of social work, available in most universities, offer graduate and postgraduate training, combining theoretical study with field work. Government-operated programs provide training for child care staff and social work aides, as well as in-service training for social work professionals. Community and case workers are employed in various contexts, including social service bureaus, community centers, immigrant absorption facilities, mother-and-child care 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 five-fold since the country’s establishment, the number of senior citizens (age 65+) has increased ten-fold, now representing nearly 10 percent of Israel’s 7 million inhabitants. Much of this growth has been due to mass immigration, which peaked during the 1950s and the 1990s. Over one million immigrants have arrived since 1989, mainly from the countries of the former Soviet Union, more than 12 percent of them aged 65 and over. Many had neither the time nor the opportunity to learn Hebrew, be absorbed in the workforce or establish a secure economic foundation for their old age. Thus many of Israel’s elderly, some 13 percent of whom are disabled, are 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. Community-based 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,meals-on-wheels, sheltered housing, daycare, medical equipment, and transportation. Emphasis is placed on services for high-risk groups, such as people without family or adequate income.