Addressing public safety for social worker-like kaimahi

The SWRB has been undertaking work to build our understanding of the social worker-like workforce, including how public safety may be strengthened. Earlier in 2024, we completed a report on addressing public safety for social worker-like kaimahi for the Minister for Social Development and Employment. The report was funded by the Crown alongside the pay equity extension for social workers in community and iwi settings.

The pay equity extension for community and iwi social workers identified categories of social service workers, including category three social workers who did ‘substantially similar’ work to registered social workers. To increase our understanding of the mahi of these workers, we engaged with the sector in three key phases during 2023 and 2024. Engagement phases included engaging with government and NGO leaders, surveying category three kaimahi/workers and their employers, and stakeholder engagement hui.

The report highlighted a number of findings.

  • The SWRB’s engagement found many social worker-like kaimahi are doing the same work as registered social workers but without the same regulatory oversight in place to protect the public and increase professionalism.
  • An estimated 30% of those eligible for the pay equity extension for community and iwi social workers meet the requirements for category three.
  • A significant amount of the work completed by social worker-like kaimahi carries similar risks to the work completed by registered social workers, who are a regulated workforce with professional responsibilities and accountabilities in place.
  • There is a lack of data available about this workforce, including how they ensure safe practise and the volume, nature and resolution of complaints against their practice. There are limited mechanisms for independent oversight.
  • There are existing legislative mechanisms to increase oversight and accountability of kaimahi in social worker-like roles which could have positive implications for public safety outcomes and recognition of the mahi.
  • The public do not have the same level of protection when interacting with a social worker-like kaimahi compared to a registered social worker.

We also commissioned research from MartinJenkins to explore issues around public safety concerns for category three workers. This provides information from other jurisdictions.

Today we are publishing the report, including the appendix to the report which describes the stakeholder engagement and the MartinJenkins research report which supported its development.

SWRB Social Worker-like Kaimahi Report 2024

Appendix One of SWRB Social Worker-like Kaimahi Report 2024

MartinJenkins Report on public safety for category 3 workers

Published 27 June 2024