More than a third of Israel’s children are poor

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 Over the past three decades, the percentage of poor children has increased more than fourfold, from 8.1 percent in 1980 to 35.6 percent in 2011.

More than 900,000 children in Israel are living below the poverty line, an all-time high, according to the 2012 report by the Council for the Welfare of the Child.

The report, which the council’s director, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, submitted Tuesday to President Shimon Peres, states that 905,000 children – 35.6 percent – are living below the poverty line in Israel.

Over the past three decades, the percentage of poor children has increased more than fourfold, from 8.1 percent in 1980 to 35.6 percent in 2011. There was a slight decline in 2010.

“The figures in the report are worrisome; we cannot accept a situation whereby the number of poor children has grown fourfold,” Peres said, upon receiving the report from Kadman. He said the council’s report was an “alarm clock” for the entire country, “giving an important picture every year about what is most important to us – our children.”

In 2011, 65.8 percent of Arab children in Israel were living in poverty – almost three times the percentage of poor Jewish children (24.2 percent ). According to the report, there has been a 60-percent increase in the number of poor children since 1998.

The report also points out a failure to rehabilitate youthful offenders: Approximately 70.5 percent of minors who had served prison terms were back behind bars within five years of release after serving their first sentence, and 42 percent were back in jail within a year of their release.

The report found that in 2011, more than one quarter (28.4 percent ) of all minors age 12 to 18 who were charged with criminal offenses the previous year were not in school. Of minors in that age group with criminal records, 32.8 percent reportedly have at least one parent with a criminal record, as opposed to 13.4 percent of minors in that age group in the general population.

In terms of crimes committed against children, the figures show that 71.6 percent of such offenses over the past year were committed against children outside the offender’s family. However, the number of reported offenses against children within the family has risen by 49.8 percent since 1998.

The figures show a rise this year in the number of suspected cases of child abuse reported to social workers as required by law – from 47,184 in 2010 to 49,426 over the past year. Compared to 1995, reporting of abuse has skyrocketed 200 percent.

The report goes on to note that 5.4 percent of children in grades 1 through 9 are underweight. There are reportedly more underweight Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox children than other children in the same age groups; 8.9 percent of Bedouin children and 7.1 percent of ultra-Orthodox children are underweight.

In 2011, only 13.8 percent (30,396 ) of severely disabled children received a handicapped-child allowance, according to the council’s data.

An ever-growing number of children now live in one-parent families in which the parent is single (not divorced ); this figure has risen from 23,792 in 2000 to 44,581 in 2011. The number of children living with a divorced parent has also risen, from 116,682 in 2000 to 149,347 in 2011.

At Tuesday’s event, Peres said the election year should be used as an opportunity for “all parties to agree to a common platform of concern for children.”

Kadman said, “The government, and all its ministries, must learn the findings in the report and adopt them as a plan of action to improve the treatment and concern for children. The time has come to see children as a true asset, not a budgetary burden or an election slogan.”

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