Scope of Practice

What approach is the SWRB taking to developing a Scope of Practice?

The SWRB will circulate a Scope of Practice discussion document to the social work sector in January 2020. We don’t want to overwhelm busy social workers now so we have put together an overview of our approach, and will seek engagement from you on what you think should be included in the Scope of Practice for social work in Aotearoa New Zealand in the new year.

We have sought input from the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) in the development of the discussion document and are grateful for the insights that have contributed to it.

The SWRB has taken into consideration the submissions received on proposed amendments to the Act, and the sector feedback on the 2016-2017 draft General Scope of Practice and proposed definition of social work.

We heard that social workers wanted the SWRB to recognise the IFSW Definition of Social Work, so we have used this, and the Asia Pacific regional amplification as the definition of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

The ANZASW has recently updated their Code of Ethics for the profession and has given the SWRB permission to use this as the ethical position on which social work in Aotearoa New Zealand is based.

These documents, alongside Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the laws and codes within which social work is practised, underpin the context within which the Scope of Practice will be set in our country.

What is a general Scope of Practice?

A Scope of Practice is a high-level description of social work practice. It supports a shared identity for social workers across different work settings (fields of practice), roles and employment titles, and establishes a common understanding of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Scope of Practice is high level so social workers working in different fields of practice and roles can identify themselves within it. These may include supervisor; manager; navigator; whānau worker; youth work; community worker; and those involved in education; drug and alcohol work; research; policy advice; counselling; programme management etc.

The Scope of Practice is not designed to be specific to a field of practice. The premise is that all registered social workers have similar core skills and knowledge. The field within which they practise will determine what additional skills and knowledge are required within that specific field of practice.

A general Scope of Practice is not a description of restricted activities (i.e. carried out only by social workers). Restricted activities are described by the Ministry of Health as those which can only be performed competently and safely by a particular professional to avoid serious public risk or permanent harm.

We will be keen to have your thoughts and input into developing a Scope of Practice, and will let you know how that can be done once the discussion document is posted.

You can download the 2016-2017 draft General Scope of Practice:

General Scope of Practice

You can find further information about the changes to the Act here.

You can find the ANZASW Code of Ethics here.