Onboard newsletter – April/May 2024

He ara pūkenga, he ara tauwhiro, hei whakamana mātā waka
The many pathways of knowledge, the many pathways of social work, upholding the dignity of all

We passed a great milestone recently: more than 9,000 practising certificates issued since 1 July 2023 – the highest number in a practising year. But while this is good news in terms of bringing more practising social workers into the workforce, we know it continues to be a challenging time as the pressure of staffing shortages across the sector remains.

We often have highlighted the number of people on the register (around 12,340). As you will see, there is a significant difference in these two numbers with over 3,000 people on the register not holding a practicing certificate. Reasons vary, some people are away overseas, or on parental leave while others are taking a break from social work. However, we think that it is timely to undertake a review of the Register, with an initial focus on those who have not practised since 2021. This will enable us to confirm practising status including those who are not practising but wish to remain registered, along with making sure we have up to date contact details, etc.

We’ve also been updating our authorised employer arrangements – authorised employers can pay for their social workers’ practising certificate and other fees directly. We know from our workforce survey that a high proportion of social workers have their fees paid by their employer. If a social work employer wishes to pay SWRB for practising certificate fees directly, they will need to become an SWRB Authorised Employer (see below for more information).

Our regulatory team are busy preparing for the practising certificate renewal period coming up. A reminder that when you renew your practising certificate you are asked to make a declaration that you will fulfil your professional obligations. You must do this even if your employer is paying for your practising certificate. Please look out for updates as we strive to make it a smooth process for all.

We are looking ahead to our own priorities and plans for 2024/25 onwards, including setting out our strategic direction in our Statement of Intent which is due for publication in July.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to an advertisement in this Onboard. We are looking for an experienced social worker to join us for a fixed term Professional Advisor – Social Work role – it’s a great way to extend your practice into new spaces. We’d appreciate if you could  share details with your networks

Ngā mihi,

Sarah Clark

Chief Executive

Authorised employer

We are signing employers up to our Authorised Employer scheme. Authorised Employers can pay for their social workers’ practising certificate and other fees directly.

If a social work employer wishes to pay for practising certificate fees directly, they will need to become an SWRB Authorised Employer. For the 2024/25 Practising Certificate renewal period, they must complete and return an updated Authorised Employer Agreement to us by Friday 10 May 2024. 

We will not issue invoices to employers who are not part of the scheme.

As we have updated the terms and conditions of our Authorised Employer Agreement, we are asking all employers to renew their agreement with us. In early April, we wrote to all the employers we have details for inviting them to sign the new Authorised Employer Agreement.

Being an Authorised Employer allows you to:  

  • View the list of your employees, including their registration and practising status at any time.   
  • Receive invoices and statements for the social workers you employ. 
  • Select which fees you want to pay on behalf of your social workers. Most employers pay practising certificate fees and the disciplinary levy. Many also pay one-off registration fees. 

As at the end of April, we have started receiving signed Agreements from employers and expect to be processing many more before the cut off date of 10 May. We are sending reminders out this week and will be making follow-up phone calls to the larger employers we have not yet heard from.

The number of authorised employers has grown over the last two years – and we’ve been learning as we go. We know how important it is for employers to receive regular updates and invoices and have made changes to the system and improve our communications.

If you employ social workers and have not heard from us directly, you can find out more about becoming an Authorised Employer at: https://swrb.govt.nz/authorised-employer/

If you are a social worker and are not sure whether your employer is an authorised employer, check with your manager.

You can also contact employerqueries@swrb.govt.nz.

Preparing for practising certificate renewals

As outlined in the last Onboard, we are preparing for the practising certificate renewal period for issuing 2024/25 practising certificates.

The best time to renew your practising certificate will be early June – in about a month’s time!

When you renew your practising certificate you are asked to make a declaration that you will fulfil your professional obligations. You must do this even if your employer is paying for your practising certificate. You are also asked to let us know if there are any factors from the last 12 months which may impact on your social work practice (such as health concerns or disciplinary proceedings).

You will be invoiced for your practising certificate fee (including disciplinary levy), unless your employer is part of the Authorised Employer scheme. We will not be issuing invoices to any other employers. If your employer is not part of the scheme, but they have agreed to pay your fees, you will need to make any arrangements to be reimbursed directly with your employer. You are responsible for making sure your invoice is paid before 1 July 2024.

Part payment options are available unless you have any outstanding debt with the SWRB.

Please note that new fees apply for the 2024/25 Practising Certificate Fee and Disciplinary Levy. This follows the consultation from December 2023-February 2024 and the subsequent Board decision. Details were published in the New Zealand Gazette: https://gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/2024-sl1502  

Growing the workforce

We have issued more practising certificates this year than any previous year! More than 9,000 practising certificates have been issued in the 2023/24 practising year.

The numbers on the register have also gone up. However, we expect this number to reduce over the coming months as we identify out of date records.

RegistrationsFrom 1 July 2023
to 30 March 2024
Total number of social workers on the register12,340
Total number of practising certificates issued9,055

Experience pathway – pre application feedback

The Experience Pathway: S13 is a route to registration for people who have been working in social work for a significant number of years in Aotearoa New Zealand, but who do not have a recognised social work qualification. Typically, applicants will need to have had at least ten years of social work experience.

Recently we have received applications that have been unsuccessful because the applicant did not demonstrate sufficient social work experience. Currently, assessment of someone’s experience and competence takes place after payment of a non-refundable registration application fee.

We are therefore offering to give potential applicants brief feedback on their CV before they commit to making a full application.

The provision of feedback of CVs does not replace the full application process. It provides an early indication of whether someone is likely to have enough experience to meet the Board’s expectations before they commit to paying the fee. For more information, please see the website.

SWRB office closure

The SWRB office will be closed on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd May. This is while we attend a Noho Marae for staff development across the organisation and as part of our commitment to developing the organisation’s Māori capability. We will respond to voicemails and emails on Friday 24th May. Apologies for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience if you are trying to contact us during that time.

Job opportunity: Professional Advisor – Social Work

The SWRB has a fantastic opportunity for a Professional Advisor – Social Work to join our team in Wellington. This is a part-time, 12-month, fixed-term role reporting directly to the Lead Professional Advisor Social Work, Māori. To be successful in this role you will need to have significant experience of social work and a high level of expertise on competence to work with Māori. You will support the regulatory functions of the Board, have strong analytical abilities, good communication and engagement skills, and work effectively in a collaborative environment. 

Find out more about the role on our website: swrb.govt.nz/about-us/jobs/