All social workers in New Zealand now need to be registered by the SWRB with mandatory registration in place.
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 then 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.
Amendments to the Act were passed by Parliament in early 2019 which will make it mandatory for anyone calling themselves a social worker and practising in New Zealand to be registered with the SWRB.
All practising social workers now need to be registered from 27 February 2021, and hold a Practising Certificate, which must be renewed each year.
Why mandatory registration?
The voluntary registration system was no longer adequate to ensure the level of professionalism we need in the social work sector.
Social workers who weren’t registered weren’t subjected to assessments of their competence and fitness to practise, or covered by existing complaints and disciplinary processes, and they weren’t required to have professional supervision or to undertake continuing professional development.
This made it very difficult to hold them accountable for the quality of their work.
Benefits of all social workers being registered
There are many benefits to having all social workers registered, including:
- helping to increase the trust and transparency within the social work profession
- having greater assurances around the quality of social workers and their accountability
- increasing the safety of vulnerable adults and children by having professional, qualified, and registered social workers
- increasing the professionalism of social work, and enhancing its standing
- putting social work on an equal footing with other similar professions, ie health, teaching and law, which all have mandatory registration
- social workers being better recognised for the hard work they do, along with their valuable contribution to the community.
You can read the Social Workers Registration Act, including its amendments.