Children with Disabilities in the Bedouin Population in the Negev

Background

Information on children with disabilities in the Bedouin population in the Negev was collected more than a decade ago in a study conducted by the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute.[1] That study found that service usage by children with disabilities among the Bedouin population is lower than among the Jewish population. The study also pointed to significant shortage in services for Bedouin children with disabilities. Since a decade went by and following changes in the disabilities area, we found it necessary to conduct an up-to-date study.

Objectives

  1. Map available services for children with disabilities and their family members in the Bedouin population in the Negev, in the education, health and welfare areas
  2. Identify barriers to service take-up and unmet needs in these areas, in routine times as well as during COVID-19.

Method

The study relied on several data sources: official websites of entities providing services for children with disabilities; analysis of administrative data provided by the National Insurance Institute, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, Israel’s 360˚ National Program for Children and Youth at Risk, and Clalit Health Services; and semi-structured in-depth interviews with professionals as well as parents of children with disabilities in the Bedouin population in the Negev.

Findings

  • The identification rate of children with disabilities in the Bedouin population in the Negev is lower compared to both the Jewish and the Arab population.
  • The services available to children with disabilities in the Bedouin population in the Negev are limited compared to both the Jewish and the Arab population.
  • The services available to children with disabilities in the unrecognized Bedouin villages are limited compared to the recognized towns and villages.
  • The service utilization of children with disabilities in the Bedouin population in the Negev is affected by the following barriers:
    • Professional human resources: Low availability of professionals – particularly Arabic speakers – and insufficient professional knowledge.
    • Low availability and accessibility of services – in geographic, transportation, language, cultural, economic, and technological terms.
    • Personal, family and community aspects, including prejudices regarding disability; lack of knowledge and awareness of disabilities; difficulties completing bureaucratic procedures to take up rights and utilize services; family burden; and cultural perceptions regarding the division of roles within the family and the commitment to the extended family.
    • Limited information and inter-authority coordination. There is not enough information about children with disabilities, and the authorities responsible for them are not coordinated enough.
  • The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated service these take-up barriers, which reduce rights take-up also in routine times.

Recommendations

  • Formulating a professional development policy:
    • Professional enhancement and empowerment of the existing staff
    • Incentivize professionals, primarily Arabic speakers, to work in Bedouin towns and villages
    • Create programs to encourage, direct and incentivize youngsters form the Bedouin community to study the professions related to child development
    • Develop programs for training Bedouin professionals
  • Service provision:
    • Compensate for the service shortage by providing preparatory programs for matriculation and employment, leisure programs and solutions for children with mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as with conduct and autism spectrum disorders
    • Ensure service accessibility from the geographic, linguistic, cultural, economic and technological aspects
  • Personal, family, and community aspects:
    • Encourage the population to take prenatal genetic tests and examine the possibility of creating a genetic database to test the compatibility of potential partners prior to their engagement or marriage
    • Initiate a public information campaign to reduce the negative stigma of disabilities as well as heighten the awareness of the importance of care and its contribution to improving daily functions
    • Follow-up on children with disabilities and provide ongoing support to their parents by treatment coordinators
  • Policy:
    • Add dedicated fields to the databases of the relevant ministries in order to identify disabilities and other relevant characteristics

To implement these recommendations, we propose creating an interministerial and interdisciplinary regional team to promote a regional policy to develop solutions for children with disabilities and their families, as well as local multidisciplinary teams to develop local solutions, including models of treatment continuity, and promote an Arabic-language public information system.

 

 

[1] Strosberg, N., Naon, D. & Ziv, A. (2008). Special-needs Children in the Bedouin Population of the Negev: Characteristics, Patterns of Service Use, and the Impact of Caring for the Children on the Mothers. RR-08-503, Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Hebrew). https://brookdale.jdc.org.il/en/publication/special-needs-children-bedouin-population-negev-characteristics-patterns-service-use-impact-caring-children-mothers/