Extending the experience pathway for registration - update

The SWRB welcomes the government’s decision to extend the experience pathway for social worker registration until February 2026. This follows the passing of the Social Workers Registration Legislation Amendment Bill at its third reading in Parliament yesterday (20 February 2024).  

The experience pathway is a registration pathway for people who have been working as a social worker for several years, but who do not have a recognised social work qualification. The Experience Pathway: S13 is provided for under section 13 of the Social Workers Registration Act. 

Section 13 was due to be repealed in February 2024, but the Government’s decision now makes this pathway available for another two years to February 2026. 

Experience pathway applicants have used their skills and experience to make a significant contribution to whānau and communities. It is an important pathway. It recognises those who have worked tirelessly, but who have not been in a position to attain a qualification. 

Since the establishment of the experience pathway, there have been a number of changes in the social work environment, including the introduction of mandatory registration in 2021 and an increased demand for social work services.  

We continue to receive registration applications through this pathway. The extension gives more time to bring experienced, competent people working in social services into the professional social worker workforce, while we continue to transition to a professional qualification environment. Registration supports the safety and competence of the workforce, and applicants for the experience pathway (or their employers) pay a substantial fee for registration. 

The SWRB welcomes the many positive statements from MPs, which expressed their support for social workers, recognising the value of their work and the significant contribution they make to communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Hansard Report of the debate can be found here: Social Workers Registration Legislation Amendment Bill — Third Reading. 

Minister of Social Development and Employment Louise Upston’s announcement can be seen here: Greater support for social workers  

Chair of the Board, Shannon Pakura welcomed the extension of the pathway, saying: 

“The experience pathway provides the mechanism for all those social workers who do not have a social work qualification and have been working as a social worker in Aotearoa to have their experience and contribution recognised. It is an accessible and effective route to registration. A significant number of Māori and Pasifika practitioners have applied for registration through this route.”