Onboard newsletter – March 2020

These are challenging times as the country locks down in an extraordinary effort to stamp out COVID-19.  We recognise that the lockdown can and will put some people under a great deal more stress, particularly those social workers are assisting.  I realise everyone is facing difficult circumstances and I’d like to acknowledge the commitment that social workers show every day when they turn up to work, especially when the issues people are dealing with are made even more challenging.

Your first concern will be how you practise safely.  You will also need to consider self-care so you can continue working through this period and how you can boost your resilience – there is more on this later in the newsletter.

We have set up a Facebook page which I’d encourage you to follow for updates.  Find it at www.facebook.com/TheSWRB/.

The SWRB has recognised the need for everyone to help out in these times. There is likely to be a greater demand for social services during this period, and we would like to help those social workers who are registered and would like to assist in the community efforts by issuing Interim Practising Certificates (IPC) for those who want to return to practice.

Recognising the particular pressure that the sector is under, we will waive the fees for those working for or who have an offer of work from NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) if the work is connected to the pandemic response.  If you know of a social worker in this situation, please ask them to contact the SWRB via email: practisingcertificate@swrb.govt.nz.

We have also temporarily suspended our roadshows and will be shifting to a digital approach but we have very much enjoyed getting out and meeting so many of you.  There are some photos below of our most recent events.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui (Be strong, be brave, be steadfast)

Sarah Clark, Chief Executive

On the roadshows around the country meeting social workers and employers

Work and risk

Some of you will be part of the essential services but those who are not need to heed the government’s direction to stay at home.

If you are at work or out in the community as part of the response to COVID-19, your employer should have plans in place for how you can practise safely. There is good advice available for employers on the government website: https://covid19.govt.nz/help-and-advice/for-businesses-and-organisations/employers-including-rse/

We suggest speaking to your employer directly if you have concerns about your health and work through how they can adopt flexible approaches to working, including working from home, and fulfil all their obligations under the Health Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). Those employers delivering essential services are asked to consider measures to:

  • minimise personal interactions among staff, and with and between clients, and
  • ensure appropriate heath, hygiene and safety measures are in place.

It is for each sector or employer to decide how best to do this. 

We also encourage you to use your professional judgement to assess the risk to deliver safe care informed by the values and principles set out in the Code of Conduct.  The key principles which should be followed include the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence, and to recognise and work within the limits of your competence.

We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, you may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for clients.  If concerns are raised about your decisions and actions it will always be considered, taking into account the factors relevant at the time.

For COVID-19 information, the best places to get advice are the government’s COVID-19 website and the Ministry of Health website.

SWRB working remotely

We have looked at what the SWRB will need to do now that we have to work remotely, and this is what we’re committed to:

Registration – we will maintain the Public Register and continue to issue Practising Certificates. 

Due to the lockdown, we are temporarily putting on hold new applications for registration as some documents need certifying, and you will currently not be able to seek that without breaching lockdown requirements. For those people who have already submitted an application, a member of our registration team will be contacting you to see how we can support you to progress.

Complaints – we will continue to assess notifications and complaints

Education – we will work with educators on maintaining education standards for programmes

IT system support – we’re committed to making sure the system can operate remotely

Accounts – we plan to be able to pay bills

We are looking after our staff so they can continue looking after you by the following approaches:

Working from home – we are working remotely and using Zoom to connect with each other

Lockdown – we expect staff to follow the lockdown requirements

Roadshows – we are moving to a digital approach, and temporarily suspending forums


Resilience is our ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties. Often as social workers our focus is on building the resilience of the people we work alongside.  In light of our current situation here in Aotearoa New Zealand I am asking that we, as social workers, take time to focus on nurturing our own resilience to manage the emotional demands of the mahi ahead.

Remember the familiar advice of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. Make sure that you are safe and well and then you can effectively support and work alongside others. As we settle into this “new normal” give yourself permission to stop, organise your environment, and prepare your work and personal space for what lies ahead.

Keep connected with fellow social workers – we are in this together

Take time out – step back and remember your why

Dig deep as there are challenging times ahead – the deeper we dig the more we grow

Reach out – to give manaaki we also need to know how to receive it

Be kind to yourself (most importantly) – we are navigating new territory and all we can do is our best

Andrew Thompson, RSW, Principal Advisor Social Work and Patsy Kainuku, RSW, Senior Māori Advisor social work practice

Scope of Practice

You will be aware that the SWRB and the sector are developing a Scope of Practice.

Over the last few months, we have had a number of opportunities to engage with social workers from around the country. There have been kanohi ki te kanohi workshops as part of our roadshows, social workers have contributed via email and survey monkey, and we have connected with students and educators within schools of social work. We have also met with DHB social workers and ANZASW members.

As always, the whanaungatanga expressed in working groups, the passion social workers have for their work, and the values of social justice and concern for human rights have been evident as we have travelled around the country.

Thank you for your contributions so far and we look forward to your further input. The themes and examples of words and statements we have received so far are represented by the word cloud.

We are now in the process of reviewing the approach we will take to developing a draft scope to ensure we honour the feedback we have received. Once a draft scope has been written, we will send it back out to you for your feedback.

Diane Garrett, RSW, Principal Policy Advisor

 Experience pathway: S13

You may know of a social worker who has years of experience but has put off applying to become registered because they do not have an SWRB-recognised social work qualification.

We want them to know we have changed the application process and that we value their experience, their networks, and their contribution to the lives of those they work with. They will need at least 10-15 years of social work experience in New Zealand and they are welcome to apply in Te Reo Māori.

The application process is in two stages:

  • Stage one highlights your work experience and gives you and us an opportunity to discuss whether a full application might be successful.  If we do not think you should proceed at stage one, we will let you know.
  • Stage two focuses on your knowledge, skills and experience. You will need endorsements from at least two registered social workers who know about your practice.

If you know of a social worker who might be interested, please encourage them to contact us or they can find more information here.

Andrew Thompson, RSW, Principal Advisor Social Work