Mandatory: the next step

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

The changes

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


  • All social workers will have to be registered by 27 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
  • If practising, social workers must hold a valid Practising Certificate, which is renewed each year.


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

  • Educational institutions are responsible for ensuring the competence of their graduates
  • If you have New Zealand qualifications, there is no longer a competence assessment required when you apply to be registered as a social worker
  • 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 you, or a social worker you know, has a health issue that is having an impact upon their ability to practise.

Mandatory reporting requirements

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 27 February 2021 – APPLY TO REGISTER
  • 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 social workers to become registered and to hold a valid Practising Certificate, which is renewed each year. Registered social workers are also 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:

  • Serious misconduct
  • Health issues that may be impacting upon the social worker’s practice
  • Competence The first step for the employer is to investigate and provide assistance to improve competence.  If there are still issues, the employer must report that to the SWRB.

If you are not sure about whether to report an issue, give us a call to discuss. We will be working with the sector on defining what is meant by serious misconduct so it’s clear for everyone.

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 engage 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.