In Italy, many older people live far from immediate family and need help taking care of their basic needs — like washing, taking their medicine, getting dressed or any number of other simple daily activities. That means Italy needs caregivers.
The president of the INPS, the Italian government's institution that controls social security, has suggested that migrants could help meet Italy’s growing need for caregivers.
To get a clearer picture of caregiving work, we spoke to someone who has experience working with both migrants and caregivers: Emanuele Petrella, head of the WELLcHOME SPRAR center in Rome, run by the cooperative Idea Prisma 82 (of which Mr. Petrella is an associate). The center implements projects that help both people who need caregivers and migrants interested in becoming caregivers.
From 2006, the cooperative Idea Prisma 82 has helped train and orient over 150 “assistenti familiari.” In the interview, we asked Emanuele a few questions about what a caregiver is and what the job entails.
How do I get into this line of work, and what does this kind of job look like?
(translated from Italian)
What are the usual duties of a caregiver?
“Assistenti familiari,” as caregivers are called today, help manage and support the daily life of the person they care for. They supervise the person's health, interactions with the community and help him or her access social events and services, as well as any health services he or she needs.
Do caregivers usually work at private homes or in elderly care facilities?
They can work in both kinds of environments.
Can caregivers care for only the elderly or also for people with disabilities?
Both, and they can also care for people with mental disabilities.
Does a person need to have specific training to become a caregiver?
Yes, they do. This is a good example of an entry-level course for assistenti familiari offered by a foundation which is specialized in the caregiving sector in Italy. In it, you can find the requirements to enroll in the course, what will be covered during the course, how much it costs and how often you must attend.
Is it necessary to speak Italian to become a caregiver?
Yes, absolutely. Having at least a “terza media” diploma, done in Italy and at an accredited institution like a CPIA, is also helpful.
How long do courses for caregivers usually last?
They usually last at least 80 hours.
Do the institutes/schools which provide this training for caregivers also help them find jobs?
Yes they do. Some programs provide their students with practical work experience that help them build the relevant skills they’ll need for caregiving jobs, and also give them job orientation. Some can also help students find internships and/or work bursaries after their training is complete. However, these are usually the best programs. Here is a good example of this kind of program which offers their students internships.
How many hours does a caregiver usually work per day?
At least 8 hours per day, but in some cases that require more attention or specialized attention, it can be as many as 24 hours per day.
What’s a typical net salary for a caregiver in Italy?
Usually about €700 or €800 per month.
What is the difference between a “badante” and an “assistente familiare”?
In the past we referred to caregivers as badanti, but now now we call them assistenti familiari. The “badante” figure in the past was seen more as someone who took care of the elderly in their homes. Today, the role of the “assistente familiare” is more complex, and he or she takes care of not only the elderly, but also of daily housework and other tasks like driving the person in their care. Assistenti familiari can also take care of people with physical and/or mental disabilities.
In your experience, are there many migrants working as caregivers?
Yes, I would say so.
Does your cooperative receive many requests from migrants who want to become caregivers?
As a cooperative that provides reception, social inclusion and integration activities for foreign citizens who have migrated to Italy, we can say that the caregiving sector is a good one for migrants to find employment in.
Are you aware of any diaspora associations that help migrants find work in the caregiving sector in Italy?
There certainly are many diaspora associations in Italy, but I don’t think any of them work specifically in the caregiving sector.
However, there are both regional and national programs such as the “Fondo Migrazione e Integrazione,” that provide educational and job placement activities for migrants in the caregiving sector. These programs are accessible at both the level of the regional governance office (for example, “Regione Lazio”) and through the Ministry of Interior.
Do caregivers need to be self-employed? That can mean a lot of tax paperwork.
Not necessarily. They can become part of a social cooperative that provides caregiving services, or they can create a direct working relationship with an individual they provide care for.
Any advice you would give to someone wishing to become a caregiver?
Learn the language well and choose the right kind of course that offers you the appropriate training and an internship. It’s also important to stay current with new practices in the sector, and so keeping yourself up to date with these and continued training after you’ve begun working full-time are also important parts of the job.
Anything else to add?
Passion and competence are important for these kinds of jobs. When you’re dealing with the well-being of another person, and taking responsibility for people in vulnerable conditions who could be at risk of marginalization, you need to care.
The website Il Cerca Badanti is a job portal for assistenti familiari and also gives families the opportunity to post want ads. It also provides additional resources and information for assistenti familiari regarding contracts, hours and unions you can consult for help with these issues.
The website Welforum.it is used as a tool to collect and present all regulatory and legal information relevant to the social welfare sector in Italy. In it, you can also find important research on social welfare policy in Italy, and how it relates to migrants working in the caregiving sector in Italy.
For any other information or questions you may have, you can always message us on our Facebook page.
All photos courtesy of UNHCR.