Onboard newsletter – February 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 have several updates in this Onboard so I will keep my introduction short. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who provided a submission in response to the Fees and Disciplinary Levy Consultation. In addition to more than 750 responses via the online survey, we also had several group responses. Thank you for your positive engagement. We expect to be writing to you in the next two weeks to confirm the Board’s decisions following the consultation.

From the responses, and indeed our experience in general, we recognise the profession as being a dedicated, passionate workforce, committed to walking alongside tamariki, whānau and communities to build positive change. Change itself is a constant, with the reminder experienced as we start to feel an autumn chill in the mornings, I hope you find moments to enjoy the lingering sunshine and warmth. And take those precious moments to recharge your batteries.

Ngā mihi nui,

Sarah Clark
Chief Executive

Extending the Experience Pathway for registration

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 earlier this month.  

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Section 13 was due to be repealed in February 2024, but the Government’s decision now makes this pathway available for another two years to February 2026. 

It was great to hear the many positive statements from MPs expressing their support for social workers. These were from across the House, for example from the second reading:

Hon Louise Upston (Minister of Social Development and Employment): The coalition Government recognises that social workers play a critical role in our communities. They provide essential front-line services to vulnerable New Zealanders. Recently, and more so than ever, social workers have been critical in supporting New Zealanders. 
Hon Carmel Sepuloni (Labour spokesperson, Social Development and Employment): I need to acknowledge that our social workers—[they] do an amazing job. 
Ricardo Menéndez March (Green spokesperson – Social Development and Employment) I’d like to finish by thinking of all the people whose lives were literally saved by social workers… having a social worker is key to often navigating really, really complex support services.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar (ACT spokesperson – Social Development and Employment): I have seen personally how hard social workers work… I chaired an NGO that helped victims of domestic violence, and I would say this: I used to see social workers involved in that NGO and NGOs that this NGO worked with—these social workers used to work day and night.
Andy Foster (NZ First): I’m pleased to see the bipartisan support and I hope that what we are going to do is we’re going to give those people who are doing a great job for our community, for some of the people who really need that social work support…

It is not often that members across the House join in a bipartisan recognition of the value of social work, and the significant contribution social workers make to communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Takutai Tarsh Kemp (Te Pāti Māori): That’s what we’re looking for: culturally competent, safe practitioners. Our homes are tapu. Our whānau need a workforce who will believe in them, who will support whānau with their healing, but, mostly, our whānau want trusted, safe practitioners. We want a workforce that breaks cycles—breaks the intergenerational trauma our whānau have suffered.

If you would like to find out more, you can read:

CPD audit update

Our audit of social workers’ 2022/23 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs started last week. A random selection of all practising registered social workers’ (5%) were notified by email that their CPD logs will be reviewed as part of this year’s audit. If you are one of the selected social workers, please ensure that you submit your log by following the directions outlined in the email. We recommend that every social worker check their email inboxes, including spam folders, to determine whether or not they have been selected. 

A reminder, there are several important changes implemented for this year’s audit: 

  • All social workers selected for the audit are required to submit their CPD log using the MySWRB platform. Social workers will only be able to record their CPD using the online log.
  • Critical reflection is no longer reviewed as part of the CPD audit. It is optional to include this in your CPD log.
  • Social workers do not need to have their supervisor sign off their CPD log for the audit.

For more information about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), including a video guide on how to upload your CPD activities into MySWRB, go to our website – swrb.govt.nz/practice/continuing-professional-development/

Final draft Education Standards available

The SWRB has been revising its Education Standards (previously known as Programme Recognition Standards) following a period of significant sector engagement in 2022, and further engagement activity in 2023.

The Board uses Education Standards to ensure education providers deliver a social work degree that:

  • delivers on the purpose of the Social Workers Registration Act (2003)
  • reflects the content of the General Scope of Social Work Practice
  • enables graduates to meet professional standards for entry into the social work profession such as Fitness to Practice requirements, the Code of Conduct and the Ten Core Competencies. 

In late 2023, a final review was undertaken to ensure the Education Standards aligned with SWRB legislation and intent, and that key concepts such as public safety appeared in the Standards as curriculum guidance for educators.

The revised Education Standards are now in their final draft form as approved by the SWRB Board in December 2023. The next steps of the work are to incorporate them into the SWRB Education and Training Framework, which is currently being worked on. This will include the monitoring framework for the Standards. If you have any feedback or urgent queries at this stage, please get in touch so these can be considered as this work progresses.

You can read more about this work, the pou and narrative which frame the Standards and the draft Education Standards themselves on the website: Education Standards Review 2021-24

Updated English Language Competency Policy

The SWRB has recently clarified its English Language Competency Policy after it became clear we needed to be more explicit about our requirements.

People who are applying to become registered social workers through the overseas qualification pathway must provide evidence that they have a good level of understanding of written and spoken English and can speak and write English effectively. The policy clarifies the types of evidence accepted by the Board for demonstrating English language competence. The three types of evidence are:

  • Test-based evidence. An applicant must have achieved the required score in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module.
  • Education-based evidence. The qualification that led to the social workers registration overseas was taught and examined in English in a country or jurisdiction approved by the Board.
  • Registration-based evidence. The applicant’s recent registration or practise as a social worker in English was in a country or jurisdiction approved by the Board.

With the large number of overseas applications we are currently receiving, it is important that applicants and their future employers know what the SWRB’s English language competence requirements are.

You can download a copy of the policy: SWRB English Language Policy Statement

Protecting the title of Social Worker

The SWRB continues to work with Te Kāhui Kāhu on complaints and concerns. While the SWRB investigates complaints about registered social workers, Te Kāhui Kāhu is responsible for

responding to concerns about anyone who is describing themselves (or being described by their employer) as a social worker but who is not registered.

This table describes our distinct roles:

ConcernsTe Kāhui Kāhu – Social Services Accreditation  socialworkerclaims@msd.govt.nzSocial Workers Registration Board-
Concerns and complaints
Individual or organisation may be describing someone as a social worker without them being registeredX
Individual may be practising as a social worker without being registeredX
Conduct of a registered social workerX
Competency of a registered social workerX
Registered social worker may be practising without an Practising CertificateX

Te Kāhui Kāhu have shared with us some examples of the type of notifications they have worked on.

Notification A – the role title included the words ‘social worker’

The person holding a role which had social worker in the title was not registered but on investigation was found to have an eligible qualification for registration. The person was informed that it was imperative that they apply for and obtain registration. The person submitted their application with the SWRB and registration was achieved.

Notification B – was a health professional identifying themselves as a social worker

The notifier believed that the worker in the health sector was identifying themselves as a social worker. When followed up, it was discovered that the person was registered as a nurse. Education about the legislation was provided to both the notifier and the person involved.

Notification C – person describing themselves as a qualified social worker on a website

The person had achieved a social work qualification, but they were not registered with the SWRB. When informed about the title protection in the legislation, the person updated the webpage to comply. Te Kāhui Kāhu was also able to provide the person with information on how to apply for registration.

Notification D – Tasks which may have been considered practising as a social worker

This notification was about a person working in a family violence response service. The notifier believed that the person presented as a social worker and their tasks amounted to practising as a social worker. Te Kāhui Kāhu was able to follow up with the individual and determine that their title was not “social worker”. Education around title protection was provided. Te Kāhui Kāhu also asked for the worker’s job description, study history and an outline of the service provided to the public. After consultation with the SWRB, it was determined that while some tasks completed by the worker may be considered social work-like, there was not sufficient evidence that the role included practising as a social worker.

If you are not sure if someone is a registered social worker, you can check the Register.

Māori & Pasifika Symposium 2024

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – For us and our children after us (Ngāi Tahu)

Join us on Wednesday 13 March (9am – 4.30pm) for a one day Live-Streamed (& in-person) event to hear new Māori and Pasifika research. Explore and share indigenous practice initiatives that work and support whānau and their communities.

This symposium Mō tātou ā mō kā uri ā muri ake nei is an initiative to support social workers, youth and support workers but will have great relevance for all professionals committed to culturally responsive practice. This incredible line up of speakers includes a vast range of experience and expertise, with backgrounds in social services, health and education. Brought to you by Barnardos NZ, the SWRB and ANZASW

Tickets available here: events.humanitix.com/2024-maori-and-pasifika-symposium

Helmut Karewa Modlik (Ngāti Toa)
Mauri Ora – A vision for enhanced wellbeing, prosperity and mana
Donna Matahaere-Atariki (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Ruanui, Te Atiawa, Ngā Rauru, Ngā Ruahine and Tuwharetoa)
Intergenerational healing: Organisations matter
Folasaitu Professor Julia Ioane (Pasifika, Samoan)
“You’ve just got to think about your family and what kind of person you want to be” – Listening to young Pasifika people in the justice system and their families
Elizabeth Emere Harte (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou)
Empowering whānau with their mātauranga
Jack Scalan (Samoan)
“Thanks for not asking” – Samoan social work practitioners’ experiences of racism and exclusion in decision-making.
Melissa King Howell (Ngaati Maahanga, Ngaati Te Wehi, Maniapoto and Tuuhourangi), and
Corin Merrick (Ngaati Whare, Waikato, Ngaati Maniapoto, and Ngaati Raukawa)
Waikato-Tainui Mokopuna Ora – Na te Maaori mo te katoa

Recently asked question

Q: Will the SWRB be making a statement about this government’s priorities?

A: No, we will not be making a statement. The SWRB is a Crown Entity – A Crown Entity is accountable to a Minister of the Crown. The SWRB’s Minister is Minister Upston, the Minister of Social Development and Employment.

Crown entities are expected to meet the standards of integrity and conduct set out in the public sector Code of Standards of Integrity and Conduct which you can read here: https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/guidance/guidance-understanding-the-code-of-conduct/impartial/. Under the Public Service Act 2020 the SWRB must act in a way that is consistent with its principles and values (and are set out here). While we can provide free and frank advice to Ministers, we must also act in a way that is impartial and neutral.

Our contribution is through our ability to provide advice and evidence that Ministers may use to inform their decision making. We can, for example, highlight evidence of challenges to the workforce that we gather through mechanisms such as our annual workforce survey. 

Our commitment to improving service and outcomes for Māori continues. Ensuring we listen to and prioritise the views of tangata whenua is specified in section 100 of the Social Workers Registration Act 2003: 

Obligations of Board in relation to Māori 

(1) In the exercise and performance of its powers and functions, the Board must ensure that the aims and aspirations of Māori as tangata whenua, and the need for the appropriate involvement of Māori as tangata whenua, are integral and ongoing priorities. 

(2) The Board must maintain mechanisms (for example, appointing advisory committees or forming separate caucuses) to ensure that there are at all times readily accessible to it the views of Māori as tangata whenua. 

The Board receives advice from Te Kāhui Ringa Rehe, our Māori Board advisory group. This group of Māori experts have extensive knowledge working in communities and the government sector. They provide valuable guidance to the SWRB Board to enable them to fulfil their legislative requirements and support us to be an active partner with Māori.