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 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 will need to be registered by 27 February 2021, and hold a Practising Certificate, which must be renewed each year.

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.

Benefits of all social workers being registered

There are many benefits to all social workers being registered, including:

  • it will help to increase the trust and transparency within the social work profession
  • everyone in the sector and the public will have greater assurances around the quality of social workers and their accountability
  • the safety of vulnerable adults and children will be increased by having more professional, qualified and registered social workers
  • it will increase the professionalisation of social work, and enhance its standing
  • it will put social work on an equal footing with other similar professions, ie health, teaching and law, which all have mandatory registration
  • social workers will be better recognised for the hard work they do, along with their valuable contribution to the community.

You can read the Social Workers Registration Act, with its amendments, here.