Coronavirus Pandemic Needs Overwhelm Israel’s Social Services

Municipal social service departments are on the verge of collapse beneath the weight of a desperate caseload of the coronavirus crisis, which is overwhelming its already overburdened social workers. More and more people are turning to these departments for assistance, and the long-term effects of the emergency will be particularly detrimental to poor and at-risk groups.

Social workers are having difficulty providing services to those in need because they find themselves working with wrong or missing information and wasting valuable time distributing resources, department heads say.

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An official position paper obtained by Haaretz, written this week by the organization representing 260 heads of municipal social service departments, says: “The coronavirus crisis could lead to the collapse of welfare and social service bureaus in local authorities due to the anticipated pressure on personnel, and their inability to carry out the many tasks and duties in a professional manner.”

The directors said data about the people they are meant to serve is missing or faulty: “Major gaps have been found in information about senior citizens and data is missing about people with special needs.”

The officials proposed unifying the data systems of the National Insurance Institute, the Home Front Command, the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority and other agencies to ensure that updated information is readily available to social workers.

“In light of a lack of coordination among the various agencies and information provided by various sources, an apparatus should be created that unifies all the information into one coordinated, synchronized database that would be at the disposal of decision makers and service providers in real time.” The position paper states that since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel, welfare services have been “flooded with information and directives from various sources, which have created incoherence, a lack of standardization and an additional burden.”

Welfare officials say local social service bureaus have also been tasked with the distribution of food to the needy, which takes up precious time they could be using to help at-risk groups. The nutritional needs of weaker groups must be met, the paper said, but “this need must be met as a service on a national level.”