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*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Submissions are open on a bill to introduce mandatory registration of social workers.

The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill is an omnibus bill. The Bill proposes amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act 2003. Those amendments would restrict the use of the term "social worker" to people who are registered. Currently, any person can use the term social worker and registration is voluntary.

The bill has been referred to the Social Services and Community Committee. Submissions close on 31 January 2018. The Committee's report is due on 29 March 2018.

The Bills Digest states:

"... the main aims of the bill are to amend the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 (the Act) to:

  • apply it to all social workers;
  • restrict the use of the title 'social worker' (i.e. anyone practising as a social worker or doing a job with that title must be registered and have a current practising certificate);
  • ensure that social workers are competent and fit to practise;
  • provide for an 'appropriate and efficient complaints and disciplinary processes'; and
  • increase 'the effectiveness and transparency of the way the Act functions'."

The bill was introduced by the previous Minister for Social Development, Anne Tolley. The Member of Parliament in charge of the bill is now the current Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni.

The bill provides for a transition period: the amendments that would require all social workers to be registered would come into force two years after the bill is enacted.

Background information

The Ministry of Social Development earlier released a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and Cabinet Paper that provide background information.

The Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) lists the current fees for applying to register ($345) as well as ongoing fees for the Annual Practising Certificate ($368) and competency assessment fees.

According to the RIS, the SWRB estimates that the fees could be reduced by 30% through economies of scale. (The RIS includes recommendations that ongoing competency assessments which incur a fee be discontinued and replaced with requirements for annual professional development.)

Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) National Manager Brenda Pilott has raised concerns about the impact of the costs on NGOs.

Related information

The Ministry of Social Development stopped funding the Social Work Study Awards at the end of 2016. This was despite a study from Massey University researchers that found "... that the award has contributed significantly to lifting the level of social work education, knowledge, competence and skills in the recipients and the NGO social work sector."

Responses to mandatory registration

The announcement has been supported by the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)Whitireia and WelTec and Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA), although SSPA has raised concerns about the impacts on non-government organisations.

Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Faculty of Education and Social Work Liz Beddoe said "Making registration mandatory is important, but it is not sufficient on its own to strengthen social work. And how it is implemented is critical."

The Social Workers Action Network (SWAN) have raised some issues of concern.

Social workers and bloggers Paora Crawford Moyle and Annie Joass have written about how mandatory registration of social workers would impact Māori.

Previous news stories

For further information on mandatory registration and MVCOT see:

Cabinet paper and updates on development of MVCOT

Regulatory impact statement and Cabinet papers on mandatory social worker registration

Family violence frameworks and mandatory social worker registration launched at summit

Related news stories

Coroner finds exposure to domestic violence major stressor in teen's suicide

New position brief on the need to address child abuse and intimate partner violence together