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le trasformazioni dei servizi sociali nell’era dei flussi migratori

The continuous increase of the foreign population is one of the social phenomena most responsible for the progressive quantitative and qualitative growth in the demand for local public services. For this reason, the foreign user is often considered by operators as a new pressing problem in addition to those already present: it is inevitable that they should experience disorientation when faced with unexpected questions, feel a sense of difficulty in communicating with those who speak different languages or use unusual forms of expression.

This work intends to present a descriptive research of Social Services of the Municipality of Bergamo that took place from 2006 to 2009 by the Shinui – Centre for Consulting on Relationships, in collaboration with the Committee of Family policies in the City Council and social services, less experienced in this subject. The research focuses on families with children, considering the main variable as origin from Italian and foreign families.

Given the objectives that it believes in, Shinui is part of the “Advisory group on Family Policy” (Consulta delle politiche familiari), an organization resulting from the Bergamo city council that works for «the development of a unifying and organic family policy, with the power to propose and recommend initiatives and interventions relating to the theme of the family».  Created in April 1999 after the issue was debated at the municipal council, the Advisory group represents the body coordinating within the province family associations as well as the various entities and services concerned with families. Constituted of 32 institutions, public organizations and associations, it was chaired, as delegated by the mayor, during the test period and until June 2009 by the Councillor for Social Policies of the City of Bergamo, Elena Carnevali.


The research aims to analyze the social services in the catchment area of ​​the City of Bergamo describing social data profiles of clients, the modes of access, the types of request, the reasons for being taken in charge, the nature of the intervention, the different professionals involved in the process, and the perspective of the social workers. All these variables were analyzed by comparing the Italian cases with non- native ones. The research objectives were threefold:

  1. Analysis of the characteristics of families with children who use social services by comparing the Italian nuclei with non-native ones.
  2. Description of local social services and the migration service of the City of Bergamo encompassing the work of the professionals, the services offered, and the types of action performed. In this area we have focused on the comparison between Italian and immigrant families.
  3. Gathering of qualitative data concerning the experiences and perceptions of social workers who work in social services. Particular attention was given to the comparison between non-native users and Italians: what were the differences and similarities identified between the two types of users with respect to methods for contact and successful completion, and the perception of the service? What were the difficulties on the part of social workers in taking cases form one type of user or the other?


The research focused on differences between immigrant and Italian families, in order to be able to make a comparison between the two groups. They are also considered minors from Italian, non-native, and mixed couples backgrounds.

In line with the organization of the Social Services of the City of Bergamo, the following were analyzed separately:

  • users of local social services – (minors); this concerns people who are Bergamo residents.
  • users of the Migration services. It relates only to foreign users of the migration service who are domiciled in the town of Bergamo and non-resident.

A further distinction was made between:

  • Minors without a provision from the Juvenile Court (Tribunale dei minori, TM);
  • Minors with no TM provision.

In the first case, minors arrive at the services spontaneously through a direct request referenced by an adult or if sent by another service, but always through a voluntary request; reports are not mediated by a court and are in no way mandatory. The second case, however, are those that have been reported to TM, who has issued a decree establishing some measures to be implemented to protect the subjects in question.

  • The quantitative and descriptive data were collected from social worker files. In the second part of the research, a qualitative analysis wanted to determine the perception of social workers and their experience with Italian and non-native users.
  • The collection of qualitative data was carried out through semi-structured interviews. All operators were interviewed. This collection was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the social workers who have provided the required data by making themselves available to be interviewed, the collaboration of coordinators of the Service for Minors, Laura Fumagalli, and the migration service, Silvia Dell'Orto, who supported this work through continuous assessment and comparison action. Laura Fumagalli also made available the material on children in order that it was possible to obtaining the necessary data.
  • In addition to the collection and analysis of the interactions, there followed discussion by focus groups with practiotioners to test possible hypotheses and encourage new ideas to develop.


The research was published in the book:

Edelstein, C. (2011), Le trasformazioni dei serivizi sociali nell’era dei flussi migratori (The transformations of social services in the era of migration flows). Carocci, Roma (read review, not translated in English yet).