Changes to Act

There are a number of changes for social workers and the way they work after amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act, in early 2019.

These changes were sought by both the social work sector and the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB).

All practising social workers will need to be registered, and hold a Practising Certificate, which must be renewed each year.

Being registered is important

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

  • it will put social work on an equal footing with other similar professions, ie health, teaching and law, which all have mandatory registration
  • it will increase the professionalisation of social work, and enhance its standing
  • 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
  • social workers will be better recognised for the hard work they do, along with their valuable contribution to the community.

What changes

There are changes to registration, competence assessments, CPD logs, and reporting:


  • All social workers will have to be registered and, if practising, must hold a valid Practising Certificate, renewed each year
  • You must be registered by 28 February 2021
  • As of that date, the title “social worker” will become protected. That means only social workers who are registered with the Social Workers Registration Board can use the title. Title protection is one of the ways to help professionalise the sector.


The SWRB will be introducing new ways of measuring competence to line up with best practice. As a result:

  • There is no longer a competence assessment required when you apply to be registered as a social worker, if you have New Zealand qualifications
  • Educational institutions will be required to sign off on the competence of each graduate
  • Social workers who hold overseas qualifications will still be required to complete a full competence assessment
  • There is no longer any need to do a competence re-certification every five years.

CPD logs

  • There will be audits of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs each year
  • All social workers will need to keep their logs up to date and ready to be audited each year.

Reporting health issues

  • It’s now a requirement to let the SWRB know if a social worker may be unable to satisfactorily perform the functions required to practise because of a health issue.

Non-registered social workers

You will need to register if you want to keep practising as a social worker, if you call yourself a social worker, or if you are known as a social worker.

  • You must be registered by 28 February 2021 – APPLY TO REGISTER
  • If you are practising as a social worker and you fail to obtain registration by that date, you could face prosecution instigated by the Ministry for Social Development
  • Processing of your registration application could take several months. To streamline the process, please ensure you have all the necessary paperwork in order before you submit your application.


Your support of social workers is appreciated. As the sector goes through these changes, you can show this support by encouraging staff to become registered and to have a valid Practising Certificate, which is renewed each year.

  • All social workers will need to be registered by 2021 and it’s important that any non-registered social workers you employ apply to register
  • Social workers are required to do 20 hours of Continuing Professional Development each year
  • Public safety is paramount. Under the legislation you as an employer are required to report to the SWRB if you have any concerns about any of your social workers in regard to:
    • Competence
    • Serious misconduct
    • Health issues that may be impacting upon the social worker’s practice

Scope of Practice

The amendments to the Act enables the development of a Scope of Practice, which will provide guidance on what constitutes practising social work.

The social work sector and SWRB worked together to include this in the Act.

This will be the starting point for SWRB to consult with the sector, with a scope of practice setting out a social worker’s area of practice, competencies, responsibilities, necessary qualifications, and any conditions limiting their practice.

The final Scope will be determined by the SWRB’s Board. Most of the Board’s members are registered social workers.

Specialist scopes may be developed over time in consultation with the sector including social workers, professional bodies, educators and employers.

Social Workers Registration Act

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

Frequently asked questions

If you have any questions, check frequently asked questions.