One of the programme themes of the Innovation of Social Work research group focuses on clients with complex problems. We also refer to these clients as ‘socially vulnerable’, ‘multi-problem families’, or ‘clients with a low socio-economic status’. Who exactly are these people and what is the best way of reaching out to them? These are the primary questions of this line of research.

Profile of the target group

For this line of research, we first need to clearly identify the group of clients we are dealing with. What does their life look like and what are their needs in terms of assistance? What is their social network and how are they viewed by their neighbours and neighbourhood residents? Gathering an ample amount of knowledge about the target group helps us form a clear profile of the group so that we can fine-tune the kind of assistance that may be required from the perspective of the group.

New forms of assistance

This perspective serves as the basis for the second question within this line of research, namely: what is the best way for social workers to reach out to these clients? Which procedure, skills and facilities are needed in order to achieve this goal? It may be possible to further fine-tune the existing supply more effectively to suit the needs of the clients, but it is also necessary to develop new forms of assistance.

Outreach work

One of the newer forms of assistance is so-called outreach work, sometimes (derogatorily) referred to as ‘nannying’ or ‘taking a look behind the front door’. This way of working, however, proves to be very effective for reaching clients dealing with complex problems. Many organisations currently use this method for this reason. But outreach work also raises many research and development questions. The research group responds to these questions in a number of its projects. With this line of research, we hope to strengthen the professional assistance and services provided to this group. To this end, for example, we conducted research among food bank participants and formulated recommendations for food banks on the basis of the user profiles that were found.