Minister of Welfare and Social Services Haim Katz (Likud) formulated an outline for the first stage of the increase to disability pensions, set to take effect at the beginning of January 2018, at a cost of NIS 1.98 billion.
The new outline, to be distributed on Monday at a Likud ministerial forum as a memorandum of government law, will include an addition of NIS 680 million beyond what was agreed in the negotiations with disability organizations on September 29, and will be transferred to demographics that were not originally part of the agreement.
The new outline will benefit, among others, 75,000 disabled people who are entitled to a senior disability pension, 129,000 disabled people with mental or intellectual disabilities, 7,300 blind people and 2,800 severely handicapped people.
The pensions, as agreed, will be indexed according to fluctuations in the average Israeli wage.
As part of the desire to integrate the handicapped population into employment, the amount that they will be able to earn without their pensions being reduced will be raised to NIS 4,000. According to the proposed outline, the disability benefit for an individual will rise in January 2018 by NIS 340-640 up to a monthly amount of NIS 3,133.
"The agreements reached did not provide a response to tens of thousands of citizens whose voices were silenced during the just struggle of the disabled to raise the pensions," Katz said. "Nothing addressed the natural increase in the number of recipients of disability pensions, and the massive transition from income support or work-injured benefits to disability pension was not taken into account.
"The proposal that I formulated prevents discrimination against the most vulnerable disability groups and a transition to financial assistance for the disabled people in Israel.
Alex Friedman, Chairman of the organization "Disabled, not half a person" and the initiator of the struggle for increased disability pensions, who was a partner in the agreements reached with the government two months ago, hailed Katz's new outline.
"We congratulate Minister Haim Katz on submitting the outline," he said. "Nonetheless, we are behind the agreement and its main clauses, such as anchoring future increases of disability pensions into laws and linking them to the average wage in Israel, which will ensure an increase in the pensions in the coming years."
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), who formulated the bill to equalize disability pensions to the minimum wage, welcomed Katz's outline, saying that "this is a worthy proposal that includes most of the components of the last agreement and in some respects even adds to it.
"The Labor and Social Affairs Committee will have to amend the law so that it will relate to future years and not just to the first year."
However, some do not welcome the plan, since it presents an outline for only one increase to the funding for disability pensions, and the fear is that if the government disbands next year, there will be no additional increases and the raise to the funding for the pensions will amount to only NIS 2 billion.
The main objection against the outline stems from the fact that the bill proposes a solution only for next year, and only for the first increase to the disability pensions.
This is in contrast to the agreement reached with disability organizations, according to which pensions will increase to NIS 4,000 in four stages until January 2021.
In addition, according to the agreement, the pension will be linked to the average wage, but this is not mentioned in the bill.
This was one of the most significant achievements of the agreement, which ensures that the pensions will continue to rise in line with the rise in the standard of living, and will not be eroded as is the case today, when it is linked to the consumer price index, which is rising at a slower pace.
The welfare minister's office said that the pension will indeed be linked to the average wage, but through a separate government decision.
Another drawback is the fact that the bill states that the maximum amount that a disabled person can earn without deducting his pension will only be up to NIS 4,000—NIS 300 less than what was agreed upon to months ago.
Finally, the outline states that the first payment will be made only six months after the legislation takes effect, retroactively.
The Disabled, Not Half a Person organization, which took part in the agreements reached two months ago, set a three-week ultimatum for the government to include the aforementioned parts of the agreement in the outline and threatened that if it did not, the organization would "significantly renew and intensify the protest activities with unprecedented steps in full coordination with Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn."
"It is not clear why the cardinal understandings and agreements that were reached in blood and sweat in lengthy negotiations and approved by the prime minister by phone—disappeared as if they were not," stated the Disabled Struggle Campaign, an organization that also participated in the agreements.
"Therefore, we view this memorandum as a challenge to the agreement and will act to the best of our understanding—including an active return to the struggle in full force," they added.
"Until the end of the legislative process aimed at solving the distress of the disabled, we will continue the struggle without any change in the nature and frequency of our actions," said the Disabled Panthers group, which opposed the plan agreed upon two months ago.
Oren Helman, founder of "Sicuy Shaveh" (Equal Chance), promoting integration of people with disabilities into the workplace and society, claimed that "unfortunately, raising the amount which the disabled are able to earn without their pensions being reduced to only NIS 4,000 is insufficient and too low.