AbstractIn the current managerial approach of social work, social work services are expected to strive for a unambiguous identity: social work services must clarify what they do and whom they are doing it with/for. In this article it is argued that this search for a unambiguous identity of social work services is problematic. One of the consequences is the loss of discretion of social workers, who aren’t allowed to work with problems that fall out of range of the identity of the service. The idea is that every unique question needs a unique answer by a unique service. This constricts discretion, which is necessary to meet the complexity of the problems that social work encounters.
The search for an unambiguous identity also focuses on a methodological identity rather than a sociopolitical one. The focus on the methodological identity of social work often stresses the individualisation of social problems. Problems such as poverty are seen in terms of problems of exclusion from care rather than exclusion from society. In the article it is argued that the discussion on the identity of social work must broaden its view from the search for a methodological identity towards a search for a socio-political identity: this implies that social work services reflect on broadening rather than limiting their discretion and reflect on the question whether the problems that social work encounters are care problems and/or societal problems.