Moving to mandatory registration

New Zealand is in the process of moving to mandatory registration of social workers.

From 2003, when the Social Workers Registration Act came in and the Board was created, mandatory registration has been seen as a necessary change. But the profession first needed time to get used to operating in a regulatory environment.

In 2016, the Social Services Select Committee undertook an inquiry into operation of the Act at the request of the Minister for Social Development, Anne Tolley. This was to identify how social work standards could be lifted so that vulnerable people are protected from poor practice.

The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill introduced into Parliament on 9 August 2017 is the result.

The Bill makes it mandatory for anyone calling themselves a social worker and practising in New Zealand to be registered.

Why mandatory registration?

The voluntary registration system is no longer adequate to ensure the level of professionalism we need in the social work sector.

At the moment, anyone can call themselves a social worker, whether or not they’re qualified in social work.

Unregistered social workers aren’t subject to assessments of their competence and fitness to practise, or covered by existing complaints and disciplinary processes. They aren’t required to have professional supervision or to undertake continuing professional development.

This makes it very difficult for unregistered social workers to be held accountable for the quality of their work.

Making registration mandatory will give everyone greater assurance of social workers’ qualifications, skill and accountability.

What it means for the SWRB

While we support mandatory registration, we have concerns about some aspects of the legislation – mostly around the definition of social work practice – so we’re working through those with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

A strong focus for us over the next year will be supporting the Minister and the Social Services Select Committee to progress the Bill through the House.

Once it’s passed, we will work with MSD to promote the changes to the sector, and to help unregistered social workers to become registered.


 9 August 2017    Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill introduced

17 August 2017    2015 Review of the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 tabled Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill has its first reading