The Social Workers Registration Act establishes a voluntary system of registration. The legislation protects the title ‘Registered Social Worker’. This means that unregistered social workers will still be able to call themselves a social worker, but will not be able to call themselves a Registered Social Worker.
Registration is an endorsement by the profession that minimum standards have been reached and continue to be maintained. Gaining registration demonstrates to clients and to potential employers that social workers are committed to professional standards for practising in a safe, competent and accountable manner backed by legislation. Over time it is expected that more employers may require registration as a condition of employment, that it will become the basic standard for all social workers in New Zealand and that it will enhance the public profile social work as a profession.
The Social Workers Registration Act sets out a broad framework for registration. It involves five key components:
- a recognised New Zealand Social Work qualification;
- a completed recognised New Zealand Social Work qualification
- currently enrolled in a recognised New Zealand Social Work qualification
- an overseas equivalent Social Work qualification
- enough practical experience to compensate for lack of a recognised New Zealand Social Work qualification
- determining whether a social worker is a fit and proper person;
- competence to practise social work;
- competence to practise social work with Maori and with different ethnic and cultural groups; and
- practical experience.
A Registered New Zealand Social Worker will need to have a ‘recognised New Zealand qualification or overseas equivalent’ (for more information see the Recognised Qualifications page).
There is provision in the Act for social workers to gain registration without holding a recognised New Zealand qualification (for more information see the Section 13 Applications page).
This will be up to employers to decide. It is conceivable that some registered social workers, because of their qualifications, practical experience and recognised competence, may be able to negotiate a premium for their services.
It will take a few years before registration becomes the basic standard expected of all social workers in New Zealand. There is likely to be an increased demand for registered social workers. The voluntary framework established by the Social Workers Registration Act tries to strike a balance between encouraging people to practise social work and protecting the public from poor social work practice.
Fees payable for registration are listed on the Fees page.
The Act allows for three different levels of registration – full, provisional and temporary.
- Full registration will be granted when all of the eligibility criteria for registration are met.
- Provisional registration will be granted to social workers who are either in the process of completing their practical experience, gaining their recognised social work qualification or who have graduate competence and are yet to complete a full competence assessment.
- Temporary registration will apply to overseas social workers who have come to practise social work in New Zealand at a particular place or institution for a limited period of time.
The Board consists of six Registered Social Workers and four other people. The Board is also representative of the social work profession (including social workers employed by non-government and government organisations), consumer advocates, social work educators, Maori and different ethnic and cultural groups.
Board members are:
- Shayne Walker RSW – Chairperson
- Paula Rose
- Khoa Nguyen
- Scott Thomson
- Turitea Bolstad
- Michelle Derrett RSW
- Dianne Belz-Wepa RSW
- Lisa-Marie King RSW
- Leisa Moorhouse RSW
- Shirley Ikkala RSW
Where do the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) and the Tangata Whenua Social Workers Association (TWSWA)fit with the Act?
The Social Workers Registration Board is separate from and independent of the ANZASW and the TWSWA. The Act requires the Board to consult with the social work sector on a number of matters, as it does, but does not explicitly refer to these professional associations.
Note: The text of the Social Workers Registration Act can be found online at www.legislation.govt.nz or purchased through Bennetts Bookshop in Wellington.