Extending the experience pathway for registration 

The SWRB welcomes the introduction of the Social Worker Registration Legislation Amendment Bill to extend the experience pathway for social worker registration, announced by Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Minister of Social Development and Employment yesterday.

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Section 13 was due to be repealed in February 2024, but the Bill would make this pathway available for another four years to February 2028.

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 the social worker pay equity settlement across the government funded sector late last year. The sector continues to face the ongoing impact of COVID-19 which has exacerbated social inequities. The demand for social work services cannot be met by the current workforce and social worker vacancies are growing nationally.  

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.

Registration supports the safety and competence of the workforce, and applicants for the experience pathway (or their employers) pay a substantial fee for registration. Keeping the experience pathway open for an additional four years would give us time to capture the benefits and opportunities presented by the pay equity extension, with the anticipated financial incentive this will bring for social workers to become registered.

The extension of the experience pathway would also give us time, to consider longer-term, equitable options for entry into social work.

Chair of the Board, Shannon Pakura welcomed the introduction of the Bill, saying:

“Keeping the experience pathway open would provide the mechanism for all those social workers who do not have a social work qualification to have their experience and contribution recognised. Last year, we refined the experience pathway process to ensure it is an accessible and effective route to registration. A significant number of Māori and Pasifika practitioners have applied for registration through this route.”