Mandatory registration

New Zealand is shifting to mandatory registration of all social workers by early 2021. It’s a move the social work profession has pushed for over a number of years, and follows changes to the Social Workers Registration Act.

All social workers will need to be registered by 27 February 2021.

They also need to hold a valid Practising Certificate, renewed each year.

Being registered is important

It’s the SWRB’s role to ensure the safety of the public and enhance professionalism – being registered is part of having the system in place to make that happen.  There are many benefits to social workers being registered, including how it will:

  • protect the public by requiring all social workers to be competent, fit to practise, and accountable for the way they practise
  • enhance the professionalism of social work
  • help to increase trust and transparency in the profession
  • put social work on an equal footing with other professions such as teaching, law, and health, which all have mandatory registration.

Who must be registered

You need to be registered if you:

  • call yourself a social worker,
  • are known as a social worker, or
  • are held out to be a social worker

Who we would advise to register

If you have a social work qualification1 and work in social services, we would advise that best practice is that you would become registered.  You are in all likelihood using your social work skills and knowledge in the role, and you can be practising social work even if it is not in your job title (see below for what is social work practice). Being registered supports social workers to enhance professional accountability to each other and the profession as a whole.

For employers, by having registered social workers, it shows your organisation supports and stands behind a fully professional workforce which adheres to the SWRB’s Code of Conduct.  By supporting a registered social worker, regardless of whether the position is called social work, you know your staff is required to meet the standards set by the profession. That helps to build trust and shows the public you take your obligations to public safety seriously. 

What is social work practice?

Practising social work can include any one or more of the following:

  • working directly with clients, including whānau, hapū and community
  • being involved with casework decisions at any level
  • managing and/or supervising other social workers
  • if you apply your social work values, skills, ethics, and knowledge in your role
  • teaching social work practice or theory
  • developing policy that impacts upon social work practice

A Scope of Practice is being developed with the sector which will describe social work in Aotearoa.

Extensive practical social work experience

If you have extensive social work experience in New Zealand, (10-15 years or longer), but not a recognised social work qualification1, you may be eligible to apply to become registered under the SWRB’s Experience pathway: S13.  We want you to know that your skills, knowledge, networks, and contribution are valued and will be taken into account when you apply. You are welcome to apply in Te Reo Māori.

How to register

There’s lots more registration information here and apply to register here.

Mandatory reporting requirements

Public safety is paramount. Under the legislation, social workers and employers are required to report to the SWRB if you have any concerns about any social workers in regards to serious misconduct, health issues, and competence.

Find out more here.

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.