6th International Conference on Sociology and Social Work edition:6 location:Zwolle date:25-26 august 2016
The target groups of social work experience complex and interrelated problems. The concept of ‘wicked problems’ refers to the multidimensional character of social problems without an obvious solution (Rittel and Webber, 1973, Ferlie et al., 2011). Social work organizations collaborate to address these complex problems and to achieve more welfare in the life of vulnerable target groups. Collaboration is often portrayed as an important instrument to achieve good results in social work (Wiklund, 2006). According to Blom (2004) a network of social workers must consist of both generalists and specialists. These generalist social workers can develop a specialization and, in order to meet the needs of their clients, collaborate with other specialists (Blom, 2004). Literature reveals that there is a need for a better understanding of the realities of social workers at the case level (Darlington et al., 2004). The wide range of problems of the target groups requires social workers to assume a wide range of roles in daily practice (Hall, 2008). Hood (2015) states that in a network with generalists and specialists there is an incomplete differentiation of roles and responsibilities which leads to dysfunction of the network. It has also been stated that a lack of clarity about the roles between agencies in a network causes problems about responsibility towards the client (Pinkney et al., 2008). Recent literature defines the importance of a broker role and a mediator role of generalist service organizations in a network with specialist organizations (Raeymaeckers, 2016). In this research we analyze the roles social workers fulfill in the collaboration among generalist and specialist service agencies. We analyze a network of social workers counseling prisoners in Brussels. Eight generalist social services (with a certain specialty) work together in a network and collaborate with specialists outside the network. This case has similarities to the model of Blom (2004). We organize focus groups and qualitative interviews with social workers. Our findings show the roles social workers fulfil and the importance of generalist social workers in a network.