The purpose of the Social Workers Registration Act (the Act) is to protect the safety of members of the public by prescribing or providing for mechanisms to ensure that social workers are competent to practise and accountable for the way they practice.
The primary purpose of protecting the public is best achieved by focusing on the cause of adverse events and preventing recurrences through education and other non-disciplinary means, where possible.
The Social Workers Registration Board (the SWRB) Code of Conduct sets out the professional standards social workers are measured against and expected to meet.
If you have concerns about the standard of social work service you have received, we suggest, in the first instance, that you discuss them with the social worker involved. If this is not possible, we suggest you write to the social worker or their manager outlining your concerns. This approach is usually the fastest way of resolving an issue.
If you have not already raised your concern with the social worker or employer / manager of the social worker involved you will be encouraged to do this in the first instance.
When we receive a concern about a registered social worker, we will follow this process:
- We will confirm whether the social worker you have raised a concern about is registered with the SWRB. If the social worker is registered, they will appear on the Public Register.
- The SWRB can only consider concerns about the conduct, competence, or fitness to practice of registered social workers. The SWRB does not have the power to award compensation and does not usually investigate:
⇒ Complaints that are currently being investigated by another body, such as the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Children’s Commissioner, or the social worker’s employer
⇒ Employment disputes
⇒ Anonymous notifications
⇒ Concerns involving breaches of other legislation (which should be made to the Police or relevant agency in the first instance)
- If you wish to notify us about a concern in relation to a registered social worker, please complete the online form at the bottom of this page.
- Once the SWRB have received your notification, it will be promptly acknowledged by the Professional Standards Team at SWRB.
- Your notification will be assessed by our Professional Standards Team. You may be asked for further information. It is likely that the information you provide will be forwarded to the registered social worker involved for comment. Please take this into consideration when setting out your concerns.
- If your notification relates to the provision of health service or disability services, it may be referred to the Health and Disability Commissioner in the first instance.
- Depending on the nature of your concerns, your notification may be addressed under our conduct, competence or health processes. The SWRB’s focus is on resolution, not retribution.
- If your notification raises concerns about a social worker’s conduct, the Chair of the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) may be notified. If notified, the Chair considers the grounds for the concerns and decides whether the concerns:
⇒ do not need to be pursued; or
⇒ need to be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC)
- If your concerns are referred to a CAC, please refer to the guides below. The process for investigating concerns about the conduct of a social worker is very thorough and can take some time.
- A CAC is able to make a range of determinations, including reviewing the social worker’s competence and/or fitness to practice; referring the concerns to conciliation; taking no further action; or laying a charge against the social worker in the Tribunal. Disciplinary action is reserved for the most severe cases.
- If the CAC determines that a charge will be laid against the social worker in the Tribunal, the CAC will draft the charge.
- The Tribunal will hold a hearing, which will likely be conducted in public. Prior to the hearing, the Tribunal may impose restrictions on the social worker’s practice.
- If an expert gives evidence at the hearing, the Tribunal will apply the High Court Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses.
- The Tribunal may make a penalty order against the Registered Social Worker (this would be open to appeal).