Concerns and information

If you are a member of the public wishing to make a complaint, you will need to follow this process:

  • The Social Workers Registration Board’s Code of Conduct sets out the professional standards social workers are expected to meet and may be measured against.
  • If you have concerns about the standard of social work service you have received, you should, in the first instance, discuss this with the social worker involved. Try to address the problems face to face. If this is not possible, write to the social worker or their manager outlining your concerns. This direct approach is usually the fastest way of resolving problems.
  • If you have not been able to resolve the issues, you may want to consider contacting the SWRB for advice on next steps. Board staff can provide information on issues we deal with and advise on options for dealing with your concerns.
  • You need to confirm whether the social worker you intend to make a complaint about is registered with the Social Worker Registration Board. The SWRB office can confirm the status of the social worker. If they are registered, they will appear on the Public Register on this website.
  • If you have not already raised the issues with the social worker or employer / manager of the social worker involved you will be encouraged to do this in the first instance.
  • The SWRB can only consider matters that fall within its statutory jurisdiction. We don’t have the power to award compensation and don’t normally investigate:
    • Complaints that are currently being investigated by another body, such as the Health and Disability Commission, the Children’s Commissioner, the social workers employer e.g. Child, Youth and Family, District Health Board etc
    • Employment disputes
    • Issues that do not involve a registered social worker
    • anonymous notifications
    • Complaints involving criminal matters or breaches of other legislation (which should be made to the Police or relevant agency in the first instance)
  • If you wish to make a formal complaint about a registered social worker you will need to set out the grounds of your complaint in writing. You can email this to: office@swrb.govt.nz or post it to us at the offices of SWRB. You can also complain orally to a staff member of the SWRB.
  • Once the SWRB have received your complaint, it will be promplty acknowledged by the Professional Standards team at SWRB. (If the complaint is about a social worker who is employed in the provision of health service or disability services, it could be referred to the office of the Health and Disability Commissioner as Social Workers Registrartion Act 2003 requires the Board to refer a complaint to them in the first instance).
  • Your complaint will then 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 social worker for comment. Please take this into consideration when setting out your complaint.
  • The Chair of the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal is notified of all complaints.
  • Depending on the nature of your concerns you raise it may be decided to address them under our conduct, competence or health processes. The focus of the Board’s processes is on resolution not retribution.
  • If your complaint raises issues about a social workers conduct the Chair of the Tribunal will consider the grounds for the complaint. The Board’s 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 if possible. Disciplinary action is reserved for the most severe cases. The Chair will decide either:
    • that the complaint does not need to be pursued; or
    • refer the complaint to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC)
  • If your complaint is referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee please refer to the pamphlets – Complaints Assessment Committee below. The process for investigating a complaint against a social worker is very thorough and can take some time.

    Complaints Guide Complainants

    Complaints Guide Social Workers

  • A CAC is able to make a range of determinations which include that the social worker has a competence or fitness to practice review, that the complaint is referred to conciliation, that there is no further action required or that the social worker is charged.
  • If the CAC determines the social worker will be charged, the CAC will frame the charge and it will be submitted to the Tribunal. We have established an independent Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal for handling complaints about Registered Social Workers.
  • Guide to Disciplinary Proceedings SW

  • Process leading up to the Tribunal Hearing

    Process Leading Up to the Tribunal Hearing - Flow Charts

  • The Tribunal will hold a hearing, which is likely to be conducted in public. Preceding the hearing the Tribunal may impose restriction of practice in relation to the social worker. Dependent on its finding the Tribunal may make an order resulting in a penalty against the Registered Social Worker (this would be open to appeal).

Expert Witnesses

The Tribunal hereby gives notice to all parties who may appear before it that it intends to apply the High Court Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses.

Practice Note 1 - Expert Witnesses

Practice Note Non Publication Orders

Complaints form