Onboard newsletter – July 2023

He ara pūkenga, he ara tauwhiro, hei whakamana mātā waka

Like many of us, I am grateful to have had time over recent days to connect with Matariki – an opportunity to reflect and remember and a time for communities to come together and celebrate. on the year that has passed. At the SWRB we have seen a number of changes over the past year, including changes in staffing and new projects getting underway which sit alongside our regulatory work and our role as lead agency for social worker workforce planning.

Now we can look ahead to what this coming year brings. As the regulator of the social work profession – promoting public trust and confidence in the social work profession, and enabling social workers to demonstrate quality professional practice – we have identified a number of key areas of activity. You can read more about our upcoming priorities in our recently published Statement of Performance Expectations.

These activities sit alongside ongoing mahi. One area of focus for us is the future of the experience pathway, section 13 and the Social Workers Registration Legislation Amendment Bill which would lead to the extension of this registration pathway, which was due to end early next year.  We have been invited to join MSD as an advisor to the Social Services and Community select committee as they analyse the submissions that have been made on the Bill, ahead of the proposed changes going back to the House for further debate. We will keep you up to date with how this progresses.

After our Matariki holiday, we feel rejuvenated for the coming months. I hope that you too found time to pause and reflect on the past year, to set intentions for the future, and to gather with whānau.

Ngā mihi,

Sarah Clark
Chief Executive

Practising certificate update

Ngā mihi to our 8,140 Registered Social Workers who have a current practising certificate for 2023-2024.

We are now just down to the final few renewals to account for, which we have sent out email and text reminders for. Both declaration by the social worker, and evidence of payment are needed before the PC will be released. Sometimes we can see a payment from an employer but they haven’t told us who it is for.

If you have any questions, please contact us at applications@swrb.govt.nz.

Nau mai, haere mai! Welcome to new Board member Lois Hutchinson

The Social Workers Registration Board is delighted to welcome new Board member Lois Hutchinson.

Lois has over 30 years’ senior management experience in the public sector working in health, censorship and transport, including work as:

  • the statutory decision maker for the Video Recordings Authority and Deputy Chief Censor at the Office of Film and Literature Classification
  • General Manager, Hospital Services at Midcentral DHB
  • Chief Executive of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC).

You can read more about her in the news post on our website.

More about the SWRB Board

Board members are the key decision makers on regulatory matters. The functions of the Social Workers Registration Board include:

·         to receive and consider applications for registration
·         to maintain the Register
·         to recognise or prescribe New Zealand educational qualifications
·         to review the competence of social workers and their fitness to practise
·         to establish and maintain a code of conduct for social workers
·         in consultation with providers of social work education and training and other bodies, to promote and set standards for social work education and training in New Zealand
·         to promote the benefits of registration
·         to promote and encourage high standards of practice and professional conduct among social workers and the employers of social workers
·         to consider the cases of social workers who may be unable to satisfactorily perform the functions required to practise as a social worker
·         to set criteria for reporting serious misconduct or issues of competence or fitness to practise.

You can read more about their functions in the Social Workers Registration Act 2003.

The Board is made up of Registered Social Workers (four members) and lay people (three members).

Continuing Professional Development update

With the start of a new practising year, we thought it would be helpful to share some brief reminders about your Continuing Professional Development (CPD):

  • You are expected to complete at least 20 hours of CPD per year
  • At least one of your CPD activities should address competence to work with Māori
  • Your CPD should address one of more of the core competence standards

The declaration you made as part of your Practising Certificate renewal affirmed your commitment to ongoing professional development. In recent years, we have checked that CPD is being undertaken through an audit of a randomly selected social workers on our Register. We are not yet ready to announce our next audit, so will provide an update in a future Onboard. However, we encourage everyone to maintain an up-to-date record of CPD activities and take the opportunity to work with supervisors and managers to identify CPD activities to focus on this year.

Education visit: Massey University

Our most recent education visit was to Massey University. It was a two-day experience for Hamish McDouall (Registrar), Hohepa Patea (Chief Advisor, Māori Development) and Andrew Thompson (Lead Professional Advisor, Social Work), who went to both the Albany and Manawatu campuses. They were supported by Dr Raewyn Tudor, from the University of Canterbury.

The visit also coincided with the University’s qualification review. Dr Mim Fox, University of Wollongong (pictured left, with Hamish and Andrew) was an international expert for the review.

There were many areas covered in the visit, and the team were grateful for the insights shared. One area they were particularly complimentary about was the impressive work that had gone into the noho marae experience for students. This was an important means of creating meaningful connection between students and staff. 

It was a first education visit for Hamish who joined the SWRB in May. He said: “It was great to be able to visit both campuses and meet the students. They were amazing which gives me good heart to know they will become the social workers of the future. It was also fantastic to meet their teachers who were passionate, knowledgeable, showed great commitment to their mahi and were fun to be around.”

Prescription Panel for a new Social Work degree – Call for Expressions of Interest for Contract of Service

We are looking for social workers with education experience who can join a prescription panel to provide advice on a new Bachelor of Social Work degree. The work will involve auditing the draft degree, utilising the SWRB’s regulatory tools including the Education Standards and the Core Competencies as measures to ensure they are embedded in the qualification.

To find out more about the prescription panel and what’s involved please see https://swrb.govt.nz/about-us/jobs/

Disciplinary Tribunal

In 2022, the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge against a registered social worker. The social worker was alleged to have practised with conduct that is unbecoming of a social worker and reflected adversely on her fitness to practice as a social worker.

The Tribunal dismissed the charge. 

To read the full decision and the summary (the precis), please visit https://swrb.govt.nz/tribunal-decisions/

Calling recent graduates!

Social workers who completed their qualifications in 2021 or 2022 are being invited to participate in research into experiences of field education placements.

Dr Raewyn Tudor (University of Canterbury), Dr Kathryn Hay (Massey University) and Dr Dominic Chilvers (Te Pūkenga) are undertaking the research which will investigate sources of distress and tension students experience as part of field education placements. The results of this project will help education providers prepare and support students for placements and graduate employment.

The research will be conducted using two phases. Phase One involves a 10-minute anonymous online survey, with Phase Two being interview-based. The research has ethical approval from the University of Canterbury. If you are a recent graduate (completing your qualification in 2021 or 2022) and interested in participating, please follow the survey link or use the QR Code.

Questions we’ve been asked

We are asked a huge range of questions week by week at the SWRB. Sometimes there are themes, and we thought it would be helpful to share a couple of our answers with you.

Q: Do I have to have a supervisor who is a Registered Social Worker?

A: Generally yes, but…

For new graduates and social workers who qualified overseas and are new to practice in Aotearoa, the answer is yes: we would absolutely recommend having a Registered Social Worker as a supervisor.

For those with more experience, having a registered social worker supervisor would still be the preferred option. However, we recognise that over time in people’s professional development they may benefit from supervision from someone with different skills and experience and therefore supervisors who are not registered social workers may be suitable because of other insights they bring. Whether registered or not, it is essential that your supervisor is very familiar with the Code of Conduct, the Core Competence Standards and is aware of the professional obligations of social workers.

Q: I have been advised that my role is not covered by the pay equity extension. Can you provide any further information on this?

A: Unfortunately, we are not directly involved in implementing the pay equity extension so don’t have specific information to add to what is available on the Public Service Commission website: https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/system/public-service-people/pay-gaps-and-pay-equity/extension-of-pay-equity/

We suggest you contact the PSC directly. The email address for enquiries is: payequityextension@publicservice.govt.nz.

There is also background information on the SSPA website: https://www.sspa.org.nz/pay-equity

Q: What is happening about pay equity for social workers working in the health sector who are now some of the lowest paid social workers in the country?

A: While it is not our area of responsibility, we understand that there is a claim in progress for Allied Health workers, which is going through its own process.

The SWRB provided information from our workforce planning survey to the Public Service Commission, who have been leading the pay equity extension work for community and iwi based social workers. We have also shared information (including salaries across the social work sector) with the Ministry of Health. This is in our role as workforce planning lead, where we aim to help lift the evidence base and build an understanding of the value of and contribution of the social work workforce.

We suggest following developments with the Public Service Commission and with Te Whatu Ora for progress of what is happening in the health space.