Kfar Saba, Israel

2016-12-31 10:51:19

The Unit of Community Services for People with Special Needs

Background Information

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was formulated in 2006, signed by the State of Israel in 2007 and approved in 2012. The treaty sets international standards for equality, full inclusion and integration into society and accessibility, while enabling people with disabilities to make decisions about their lives. The treaty applies these standards to various aspects of life: Work, education and living in the community. In order to implement this treaty, some changes in Israeli legislation and regulations may be required.

Goals of the Initiative

The unit’s ultimate goal:

•To develop solutions for people with special needs and their families;

•To support mentoring services and empowerment groups for siblings of children with special needs, a group for grandmothers of children with special needs, extending informal activities and services, establishing social enterprises, and more.

The unit’s success is measured annually, according to the following parameters:

•The number of participants in each recreational activity and community service;

•The level of participants’ satisfaction with each of the activities. Throughout the year, feedback discussions are held between participants and partners, and at the end of the year an anonymous online survey is conducted.

•The increase in the number of calls to the Unit of Information Services, mentoring, empowerment groups, sports and social activities, cycling, story time, community events, cafe, etc.

•The goal of integrating "Enosh" (Israeli Association for Mental Health) participants into the cafe is to train and integrate the people who cope with mental disability into the labor market as equal rights employees. The project is measured by the number of participants who have completed their training at the cafe and then were hired as employees in other places. So far, we have more than 10 participants!

Parties and Partners to the Initiative

Our success is a direct result of municipal cooperation between different business entities, social and special-care organizations.

•The cafe was established by the Kfar Saba Economic Development Corporation, which acts as an executing arm of the Kfar Saba Municipality, in conjunction with the Cafe Joe chain and "Enosh" (the Israeli Mental Health Association). It is a socioeconomic project that demonstrates public services innovation, while emphasizing social inclusion through local economic development. The cafe was established in a beautiful building owned by the municipality at the heart of the City Park, a green area surrounded by lawns and playground facilities. The cafe is a business entity, managed as any other cafe. In addition, being a social project, artists and bands from the area give free-of-charge performances, and in return enjoy exposure and publicity.

•“Cycling in the Park” was established by the Kfar Saba Municipality and Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company which operates in the city and promotes health issues.

•“Building a Community” operates in conjunction with many of the city’s hostels and associations, and in conjunction with the "Shoshana and the Pinhas Sapir Fund". The annual cost is $25,000 (based on donations).

Residents with special needs enjoy these municipal programs, as well as many organizations that provide special care. Our support system for community integration is derived from a meaningful perception of inclusion and integration.

This year, the Kfar Saba Municipality won the Akim Inclusion Prize (Akim is an organization assisting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities) for the third time for its exceptional performance on the national level.

Resources Used for Implementation

The Kfar Saba Municipality allocates the budget to support the workforce that promotes its innovative approach, and maps and extends municipal services. We promote these activities through donations made by funds and business partners and our wonderful volunteers, aged 14 to 120, who support people with special needs, and thus have a major impact on the success of this program.

Currently, the activity is budgeted for: A Head of Unit (part-time job) plus $35,000 donations. Every year we contact partners and donors in Israel and overseas to raise funds for supporting and expanding this activity. Our volunteers are highly important to the success of this program: We couldn’t promote our agenda and innovative community services without them.

Innovation for the Initiative

The cafe’s business model is innovative. The team consists of “Enosh” participants, who work side-by-side with regular employees. They are given the opportunity to acquire a profession and gain professional experience in a high-quality cafe, open to the general public (mostly businesspeople). The heterogeneous team enables both populations to get to know one another.

Taking into consideration lessons learned from other models, an “Enosh” social worker supports the participants through their work in the cafe. Also, a tailor-made "suit" is made for each participant, taking into account their specific role, working hours and readiness for other places of employment, subject to their capabilities.

The decision to open a cafe employing “Enosh” participants carried some risk, as a cafe is an intensive place of employment with high service standards and a high pressure environment. Participants’ success in dealing with these factors is the best way to prepare them for the labor market outside the cafe.

Innovation has been applied in

The Kfar Saba Municipality vision is to sustain a comprehensive municipal system that provides services to all pupils with special needs through the continuous development of services and support for the sake of their optimal development and personal advancement. We aim to enable people and their families to have a high-quality lifestyle, while constantly striving for maximum, meaningful integration into community life. These continue by welfare support even after the age of 21.

We are focusing on the individuals and their families, constantly striving for solutions that fit their needs, demonstrating sensitivity, love and respect for their unique world. Our guiding principle is listening to people with special needs and their parents, while demonstrating mutual assistance and appreciation to all partners in this educational project.

Having faith in our uniqueness and inner kindness is constantly guiding us. We do everything in our power to support the professional development (emotional, ideological and academic) of the education and special-care teams, in order to produce more creative and comprehensive solutions.

To achieve that, we hold a constant dialogue by gathering human and financial resources: Supervision, education and the Department of Youth and Community.

There is no doubt, this is the only way we can enable participants and their families to achieve their best and strive for a better life.

Obstacles and Solutions for Innovation

With the establishment of the “Cycling in the Park” and “Building a Community” projects, we have encountered a fundraising challenge. Fundraising is crucial for ensuring long-term projects. The Kfar Saba Municipality allocates the budget for the professional workforce managing the projects, bike instructor, and also partially finances “Building a Community”. As noted, we are constantly looking for donations to support our activities. For the last three years, the youth movement “Krembo Wings” also operates in the city (supported by municipal funding), aiming to seek more solutions.

The “Parents are Building a Community” Group started its activity after raising the necessary funds to hire a professional leader from the "Kesher" organization.

Another challenge is to reach all families of special needs. We have the data for all those who are under the age of 21, as they are a part of the education system, but we are constantly marketing our activities to reach those aged 21-120.

We have often encountered a fearful attitude from customers who arrived at the cafe and were not yet familiar with this project. Other customers would do the opposite and were too forgiving, not demanding regular service as in any other cafe. Over time, customers have learned that the cafe and its employees offer high service standards, and its being a social project has no negative impact on their experience—quite the opposite.

Outcomes and Assessments

The implications of these activities: Connecting experience; the familiarity and bonding created between members of the different teams through learning and having direct experience with this unique world; changing attitudes toward people with special needs.

Each year, "Akim" (The National Association for the Habilitation of Children and Adults with Intellectual Disabilities) checks the following parameters through the social inclusion index:

•Public attitudes towards people with disabilities;

•The Local Authority policy toward people with disabilities.

Attitudes are reviewed across the following criteria: Thoughts, emotions and behavior.

The State of Israel authorized the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognize the equal right of people with disabilities to live in an equal-choice community, just as any other person.

Prejudices and stereotypes lead to objection against the establishment of welfare facilities for people with disabilities: For example, the NIMBY phenomenon (Not In My Back Yard).

The local authority and its mayor have a major impact on this phenomenon and the extent of its inclusion of mentally disabled populations.

"Akim" has created a social inclusion index for people with intellectual disabilities in Israel, which is measured with respect to two main components:

•The development and operation of services;

•The integration of facilities, services and activities within the local community for the creation of positive attitudes.

The index includes the following criteria:

•The number of residents registered in social service departments who suffer intellectual disabilities before and after the age of 21;

•Education systems:

a)Housing facilities

b)Recreational facilities

c)The number of participants in vacation

d)Is there a NIMBY phenomenon?

e)How does the authority address this phenomenon?

f)Urban projects for people with disabilities

In the last three years, Kfar Saba reached first place in Akim’s inclusion index.

Methods Applied

Aiming to further expand the number of participants in the different programs, we established this year a leadership group for parents of children with special needs.

We hope these parents will become our ambassadors and will help us increase the number of activities by forming a marketing and recruitment group for existing programs.

We recognize a constant need for maintaining personal contact with the participants and their families in order to create a sense of belonging.