Ngā māharahara me ngā amuamu
Concerns and complaints

Social workers are expected to maintain professional standards as set out in our Code of Conduct. If you are concerned about the behaviour or conduct of one or more social worker, you may consider making a complaint.

Important information – please read before filling in the complaints form

  • Have you raised the concern directly with the social worker?
  • Have you raised the concern with their supervisor or their manager?
  • Have you raised a concern or complaint with the organisation that employs the social worker?

We recommend that you raise your complaint with the social worker’s employer first before contacting us. This gives the organisation an opportunity to respond directly to you about your concerns.

The SWRB can only consider concerns about the conduct, competence or fitness to practise of registered social workers. We do not usually consider:

  • employment disputes
  • anonymous notifications
  • complaints currently being investigated by another organisation such as the Health and Disability Commissioner or the social worker’s employer
  • concerns involving a crime which should be referred to the Police
  • concerns about someone who is not a registered social worker.

To find out if someone is a registered social worker, you can search for them in our public register. If someone is calling themselves a social worker, but they are not registered with us, you may be able to raise your concern with Te Kāhui Kāhu.

Our legislation limits which concerns or complaints we can consider. If we are not able to investigate your concern or complaint, we will let you know. 

If your concern about an issue with a social worker has not been resolved, you can contact the SWRB by completing the complaints form below.

Please note we are currently experiencing staffing shortages and a high volume of concerns and complaints. Unfortunately, this may affect how quickly we can respond to you. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.

What happens when a concern is raised

The SWRB is required to assess all complaints and notifications. When one is lodged about a social worker, our approach is based on natural justice and procedural fairness, and we follow this process:

  1. Once the SWRB has received the notification, it will be acknowledged by the SWRB, assessed, and you may be asked for further information
  2. Our usual process is to forward the notification to the social worker for a response
  3. Typically the combined information, ie the response from the social worker and the person notifying us of their concern, is then triaged by the SWRB team to consider and decide what, if any, further action is required.
  4. The team prepare information (a Board paper) for the SWRB Board.

Depending on the nature of the concern, it may be addressed under our conduct, competence or health processes (see below).

Conduct process

Conduct concerns are referred to the SWRB Board. The Board considers the matter and decides whether it:

1. does not need to be pursued or

2. needs to be referred to a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) for investigation

The Health and Disability Commissioner will be notified of any complaints that relate to health and disability services.

The Professional Conduct Committee

The Professional Conduct Committee is an external body to the SWRB.

It  is comprised of two registered social workers and a lay person,  and their investigation is thorough and can take some time.

The social worker and the complainant will be invited to meet with the PCC and/or to provide it with submissions.

A PCC is able to make one of the following determinations:

  • to take no further action;
  • that the SWRB Board should review the registered social worker’s competence, or fitness to practice, or both;
  • to submit the complaint to conciliation or mediation
  • recommend that the SWRB Board:
    • direct the social worker to apologise to the complainant;
    • direct the social worker to undertake training, mentoring, and/or counselling;
    • censure the social worker;
    • refer the allegations to the police for investigation
  • to lay a charge before the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal

The most serious cases can be referred by the PCC to the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.

Find out more about past Tribunal decisions.

Competence process

If competence is in question, the SWRB may contact the social worker.

The matter may be escalated to the SWRB Board if necessary.

The Board can decide whether the social worker needs to undergo a competence assessment.

Health process

With health issues, the SWRB’s Registrar will usually work with the social worker involved to ensure their health issues are not having an impact on their ability to practise.  Public safety will also be considered as a factor.

Reporting of health issues may be escalated to the SWRB Board, if necessary.


As an employer, there is now a mandatory reporting requirement about health, competence and conduct of social workers following changes to the Act.