WEMI – Milan for Inclusion, wellbeing integrated system (One-Stop shop)
The WeMi portal, is a multi-service hub facilitating access to a broad range of social services, from home-help for the elderly, to education, babysitting, and household maintenance. The platform aims to match demand and supply: providing individuals and families with a one-stop shop to meet their needs, while social businesses and non-profit cooperatives can promote their activities.
The WeMi initiative, was launched in addition to in addition to projects foreseen in the national system, to promote the individual autonomy of migrants, language training, work orientation and essential public services. This service centre of the Municipality of Milan has been running since 2018 and was co-financed with European structural and investment funds, funds from the Municipality administration, and the fund “PON Metropolitan Cities”.
WeMi consists of a digital platform and a series of physical territorial infrastructures shared with the third Milanese sector. With the aim of fostering inclusion, the centre targets all citizens, not only migrants (regardless of their administrative situation), and offers information and guidance on a range of specialised services provided in collaboration with the third sector. Third sector entities that want to offer their services through WeMi can apply to a public call and are selected by the Municipality based on checks of their quality standards for services. In 2019, in the framework of WeMi, a centre for family reconciliation opened. Among its services are school guidance, legal advice, and language learning. The rationale behind the project is to concentrate in one place the services of support to all foreigners (including EU nationals) who reside permanently in Milan and are planning to start a path for family reunification, or who have recently reunited their families, to facilitate their integration and access to the opportunities offered by the city. In this way, a network in the city is created, and integration fostered.
In 2020, this system faced new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the city in different ways. In 2020, data on stocks did not change significantly, while flows diminished, especially with reference to the arrivals of unaccompanied minors, which have been growing again in May and June 2021. In 2020, requests for family reunion halved, and mobility was generally suspended. Migrants were among the most affected workers, namely employees in the catering sectors (dishwashers, waiters) and personal care (caretakers), and therefore incomes supporting entire households were lost. The Municipality and the third sector, in particular, noticed a problem of food poverty.
COVID-19 had a two-folded impact on the reception and integration of migrants. The pandemic has led to a change in the methodology and to a switch to online service provision. However, integration processes inevitably slowed down since it impeded the development of certain activities. Economic integration, for instance, was interrupted, since internships and job placements were harder to find due to the economic recession. Moreover, the available funds had to be redirected to focus on health monitoring, sanitisation of the centres, courses on hygiene, tests, and vaccination, which led to cuts to other integration activities.
During COVID-19, the Municipality was the only present institution on which to rely for support, and it was not possible to work through intermediaries due to security measures and closures. This resulted in the creation of more direct links between the Municipality and migrants.
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