Onboard Newsletter March 2019

Changes to the Social Workers Registration Act

We’re delighted to see the changes to the Social Workers Registration Act pass through the House and are really pleased with its dual intent – to lift the standing of the social work profession and to protect the public.
As the safety regulator, we believe the new Act recognises the value and mana of the social work profession, and we are pleased to see it come to fruition.

Under the Act, social worker registration will be mandatory which is something the social work profession has wanted for some time.  Mandatory registration is vital for providing the public with assurances around social work quality and accountability.

The move to compulsory registration will help to increase the trust and transparency within the sector, will put social work on an equal footing with other similar professions, and will ensure public safety. Non-registered social workers will have until 2021 to become registered.

We recognise the work the Minister has done to understand the concerns of the sector and we’ve valued the opportunity to work collaboratively with the sector to address the concerns and see that reflected in this legislation.

We face some challenges around implementation, given that we are a small organisation. We’re working with the Minister and officials on how we can ease some of the pressure points. We’re going to take a staged approach to implementation and renewing/developing policies – and will be working with the sector on this.

This means there will be a period of transition while we work through new processes and update our policies. There will be an information campaign to inform the sector of the changes and what they mean.

There’s lots of work to do but we believe this is a really important step forward for SWRB and the sector.

What the changes mean for you (APC, competence etc)

Under the new Act, all social workers will have to be registered and, if practising, must hold a valid Annual Practising Certificate (APC).

Non-registered social workers need to be registered by 2021. We’ll be working hard to make sure this happens, and you can support us by encouraging your non-registered colleagues to step up, register and validate their contribution to the profession.

The most important change, under the Act, is to the way we assess competence for social workers. There is no longer a competence assessment required for New Zealand qualified social workers. We assume competence based on your New Zealand social work qualification. Instead, we will carry out a random audit of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs each year starting after July 2019.

It is very important you keep your log up to date in case you are selected to be audited. We will provide more information on the process once the new system is in place.

Please note that social workers who hold overseas qualifications will still be required to complete a full competence assessment.

The other change for registered social workers is their responsibility to let us know if they’ve got any serious health issues.

Scope of practice

The new Act enables the development of  a Scope of Practice. This General Scope of Practice will provide guidance on what constitutes practising social work.

It was included following feedback to the Minister from the sector. SWRB worked with the sector in 2017 to develop guidance on a General Scope of Practice. This will be the starting point for our consultation with the sector over the next eighteen months, with a final Scope determined by the SWRB’s Board.  Most of  the Board’s members are registered social workers.

Specialist scopes may be developed over time in consultation with the sector including social workers, professional bodies, educators and employers.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)

The Social Workers Registration Board and Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) work closely together but have quite separate and distinct roles.
SWRB was established by the Social Workers Registration Act and is accountable to the responsible Minister. Our function is to ensure social workers are competent to practice and accountable for their practice, and to protect the public from poor practice.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) is an Incorporated Society established under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. This means that ANZASW is run by members for members.

ANZASW exists to represent and enhance the social work profession. We asked ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed to give us her views on the current changes afoot.

Q: What are your thoughts on outgoing ANZASW President Shannon Pakura becoming the new Chair of SWRB and the attributes she brings to that role?

Shannon Pakura held the role of ANZASW President from 2016 until February 2019. Shannon provided exceptional leadership for ANZASW and was an outstanding ambassador for the profession.

Shannon’s leadership skills will be an asset to SWRB as the Board implements mandatory registration. Her years of experience, deep knowledge and professional expertise in addition to her leadership qualities mean that she brings an enormous talent to her new position. We’re grateful for all her tireless work for the Association, both as a President and an active member, and pleased for the profession that the Board has chosen someone of this calibre to take up such an important role.

Q: What are the benefits that this appointment brings to both organisations and to Social Workers in general?

Shannon is a long-standing member of ANZASW, valuing the support and opportunities the Association provides. She also values the professional benefits gained from registration and the importance of having a regulated profession. Shannon clearly understands the respective and complementary roles of ANZASW and SWRB and will be able to bring fresh perspectives to the Chair.

Q: What are the opportunities ahead of us this year?

Of course, this year has been very important for our profession, with the milestone legislation on mandatory registration becoming law. This will mean that, going forward, as the mandatory registration environment approaches there will be a real need for ANZASW and SWRB to work together to make sure that individuals, and the profession as a whole, can be well-prepared and supported.

For the Association, we will continue to be advocating on issues of importance to members and the profession, in particularly on the matter of fair funding across the sector, including for Non-Governmental Agencies. We will build on successful campaigns like the pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, and continue to work with allies to promote the best interests of the profession generally. It is important to thank the Public Service Association (PSA) who led the pay equity campaign, which ANZASW fully supported. We will be right behind them again as they lead the drive for a fair deal for NGO social workers also.

We also look forward to working with employers to embrace the professionalism that registration brings, enabling them to create environments in which social workers can deliver high quality and ethical services to an even greater extent than before.

Workforce development is becoming a significant issue for social work. Understanding the extent of the issue and development of strategies to address them will be a priority for the whole sector. We look forward to the release of the Arko Aotearoa New Zealand funded research Enhanced R2P social work capability framework. We are mindful that the review of social work education is likely to be reactivated once the capability framework is published.

So: we anticipate that we will be talking to a lot of parties that will be interested in how the legislation will affect them and who may seek our input on how best to respond to it. In addition to this, we will continue to promote and advocate for the profession and its practitioners, and stand ready to support members who have any queries about these exciting developments.

Q: Can you describe the different ways that the Social Work Registration Board (SWRB) and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) play in supporting the profession?

The Social Workers Registration Board is established by the Social Workers Registration Act and is accountable to the responsible Minister. Like all regulatory authorities, SWRB’s function is to protect the public from poor practice by ensuring social workers are competent to practice and accountable for their practice.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) is an Incorporated Society established under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. This means that ANZASW is run by members for members.

The elected Board, with a majority being members, is accountable to the members. Importantly, ANZASW is solely funded by member subscriptions. This affords the Association independence which allows ANZASW to influence social policy. This was well demonstrated in the case of the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill, which has been such an important issue for us.

Between the Social and Community Services Select Committee hearing January 2018 and the Third Reading in February 2019 ANZASW worked with the Social Work Alliance and MSD Officials to negotiate changes to the Bill. The outcome is that registration will be by scope of practice rather than by role title which effectively allowed employers to determine who was and was not a social worker depending on what the position was called. This is a significant and welcome milestone for the social work profession.

The purpose of ANZASW is to support members by offering a range of services to assist them as professionals and to meet registration requirements. Services that support registration include both providing and promoting professional development, access to a member only cloud based online CPD Log, and an extensive listing of professional social work supervisors for members with a smaller listing publicly available.

Telephone support and advice is available to members on issues such as how to set up a private practice, managing CPD Logs, ethical issues, supervision issues and much more. The website offers a wide and growing range of resources for members. The academic Journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work is published quarterly and there are a range of e-publications keeping members up to date. The Job Centre service is increasingly popular with employers, recruitment agencies and members seeking social work positions.

In situations where there is a potential or actual complaint about a member’s practice the member has access to legal advice through professional indemnity insurance. The premium for this is included in the membership fee. For a relatively small excess payment members are able to access legal support and advice; in some cases this has amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Social workers held in high esteem: comments from the third reading of the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill

We’ve collated a series of comments from Hansard that were made during the third reading of the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill (February 2019). They  show the esteem that the social work profession is held in.

Hon Carmel Sepuloni (Minister for Social Development)

“What this bill does will be transformative for the sector and the public… social workers will be better recognised for the valuable work they do, and the legitimacy of their role will be concrete.”

“Being a social worker is not an easy job… That’s why it is essential that this workforce has protections in place for themselves and that they have the skills they need to manage these situations and are valued for the mana they bring to our communities.”

Hon Alfred Ngaro (National)

“…in running an NGO, we had social workers and community workers working over a long period of time and providing a service of care to our community. So, I know the challenges that they face. I hope that through this legislation and through the commitment and support of this House, this will go some way to providing an ability to be able not only to protect the public but also too to provide that professionalism that is the intent of this bill.”

Jan Logie (Green)

“There certainly has been a bit of debate through the committee stages about the scopes of practice and the required qualifications for that. The legislation doesn’t define what the scope of practice is, doesn’t define what it is to be a social worker; it hands that over to the profession…”

“I do just want to re-emphasise the important role that social workers play in our country of supporting individuals and whānau and challenging us in Government to make sure that we get the policies right to give individuals and whānau and families the best chance possible to thrive in this country.”

Agnes Loheni (National)

“…at my very first select committee I had the Social Workers Registration Board in front of us and they gave a very moving presentation to the committee. They were clearly passionate for the profession that they work in. That was very evident. And again, the compassion was very evident in terms of one of the values for them in their line of work.”

Greg O’Connor (Labour)

“In my own profession I’ve often worked in the same sort of areas that social workers do. Social workers work with people who often don’t get to trust many people in their lives. Often the people they deal with are the only people who actually are on their side. Often they can be surrounded—it’s pretty much a dog-eat-dog world where there are nice people around, there are people who want to help, but, actually, there are not many people they can actually totally rely on, and so often that person in their life is the social worker.”

Hon Tim Macindoe (National)

“…the vast majority of social workers are doing fine work, often with very challenging people and families, dealing with behaviour that most of us wouldn’t know how to cope with—often it’s influenced by addictions and the consequence of abuse and so on. For the social workers who are doing that work to the very best of their ability and making a real difference in turning lives around, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. Imagine this society without them out there doing that work day in and day out. We would all notice it very quickly and to our considerable detriment.”

All quotes taken from Hansard