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Dec 2002 Journal

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£1 million healthcare breakthrough for Austrian victims in UK

A new fund to help needy Austrian refugees and Holocaust survivors who find themselves in financial difficulty and in need of urgent medical attention comes into operation this month. The Austrian Holocaust Survivor Emergency Assistance Programme will be administered by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) in the UK on behalf of an ‘umbrella group’ of six Jewish charities, at the request of the US-based Claims Conference.

Benefits

Grants to refugees and survivors from the Austrian Assistance Programme’s fund – which will begin operating with £1 million at its disposal – will be made to those living on low incomes, who have a medical problem requiring urgent attention, or who suffer a domestic emergency with which they cannot afford to deal. It is anticipated that the fund will be operational for two years, until 2005. The Programme’s key objective is to provide financial assistance to Austrian victims of the Nazis.

Applications for benefits can be made through any of the organisations which constitute the ‘umbrella group’ of six Jewish charities, each of which is responsible for the welfare of former victims of Nazi persecution living in Britain. They are the AJR, Jewish Care, World Jewish Relief, Agudas Israel Community Services, Claims for Slave Labour Compensation, and the 45 Aid Society.

Assessments

Following the receipt of an application for benefit from the Austrian Assistance Programme, a social worker from the appropriate organisation will make an appointment to visit the applicant in order to make an initial assessment of his or her needs and to recommend awards accordingly. The funds can be used to finance a number of items, including wheelchairs, the installation of appliances and aids for the housebound, as well as dental care and the payment of emergency rent to prevent eviction.

Details of less straightforward cases will be referred to a special vetting committee, whose members will include both lay and professional representatives from the leading Jewish welfare organisations, who will assess and adjudicate on the applications. Each award from the Austrian Assistance Programme’s fund is being kept within a maximum payment of £5,300 per person. Similarly, a maximum of £1,650 will also be paid to help former Austrians ‘buy into’ the Austrian Social Security pension scheme.

Information

A mailing with information on the new scheme is being sent out to 1,400 former recipients of awards in the UK from the Mauerbach Fund, which distributed modest compensation payments to needy Austrian survivors in 1997 and 1998. This is being undertaken by the Claims Conference to raise awareness of the availability of the Austrian Assistance Programme.

The UK’s allocation, planned to reach £1.2 million, is part of a worldwide fund of £6 million ($9 million) which was negotiated between the Austrian Ministries of Social Affairs and Finance and the Claims Conference. In addition, the scheme benefited from an endowment representing the residual balance from the Bank of Austria litigation which was launched in the US in 1998.

For additional information about the Austrian Holocaust Survivor Emergency Assistance Programme, or to make an application for benefits, please contact AJR Head of Social Services Marcia Goodman tel 0207 431 6161 at
AJR, 1 Hampstead Gate, 1a Frognal, London NW3 6AL.

This report was compiled from information supplied by Michael Newman and Marcia Goodman.
Ronald Channing

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