Onboard newsletter – March 2021

In what is a significant step forward for the profession, New Zealand has moved to mandatory registration of all social workers (from Feb 27th 2021). Anyone who calls themselves a social worker can now only practise if they are first registered by the SWRB. 

The title ‘social worker’ is also protected in a move which has long been sought by the SWRB and the profession.

There are many in the sector who have worked long and hard to see mandatory registration put in place, and I would like to extend my thanks for their extraordinary mahi to get us to this point, and thanks also to all the social workers who stepped up to become part of a regulated profession including employers who recognise the skills and knowledge of social workers and the unique value these professionals bring to their organisation.

We are urging anyone who is not yet registered to apply – there’s no cut-off date for applications! It’s really important that if someone you know or work with is practising as a social worker but is not yet registered, that they do apply. Otherwise, they will not be able to call themselves a social worker and employers are not be able to present staff as social workers unless they are registered.

It is the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) which is responsible for ensuring that anyone who should be has obtained or has applied to the SWRB for registration. MSD encourages every social worker to be registered and it will work with the SWRB to ensure this happens. The Ministry is developing a risk assessment approach about how and when it will act where it learns of social workers who knowingly continue in their role without being registered. You can find out more here.

We know there are barriers for some and wanted to let you and your colleagues know that you may be eligible to apply to a fund for NGO social workers around costs and support to register.  Applications can be made until the end of May – there’s more information here (scroll to the end).

Finally, SWRB appeared before the Social Services and Community Select Committee recently to talk about our latest Annual Report. You can watch the video here (our section starts from 24 minutes).

Sarah Clark
SWRB Chief Executive

Practising Certificates becoming digital

We are shifting to a digital format for Practising Certificates which means you will be able to instantly access, download, and print your certificate (if you want a hard copy to carry or post on your wall). The cards will be available in two formats (wallet size or A4 certificate).

You will also be able to show your employer or a member of the public that you have a valid Practising Certificate as that information will now appear on the SWRB Public Register.

We’re taking this step to modernise and end the use of the plastic card because we know each year there have been delays in people receiving their Practising Certificates and card via the mail. These delays were made worse last year with the lockdowns in response to Covid-19. We’re aware that created difficulties for social workers because employers wanted to see valid Practising Certificates.

We surveyed social workers in September last year and asked whether it would be useful to have the Practising Certificate online to show clients you are registered and able to practise, and more than 70 per cent of those surveyed agreed and supported the move to digital Practising Certificates.  Close to 80 percent said it would be useful to be able to show their employer online they hold a current Practising Certificate, and nearly 90 percent of social workers surveyed said they have a mobile device to be able to access the information online.

In an effort to improve our systems and make it easier for social workers to instantly access their Practising Certificates, we’ve made the move from a paper-based process and plastic card to a digital format, using MySWRB

We’ll provide further information about how to renew your Practising Certificate closer to the time it’s due (the Practising Certificate round opens in May and it must be renewed by the end of June).

The shift to a digital format has already been undertaken by other regulators, including the Nursing and Teaching Councils. 

Livestreaming mandatory registration event

An event to mark the introduction of mandatory registration is being held next week on World Social Work Day, Tuesday March 16th. The Minister of Social Development and Employment, Carmel Sepuloni, will speak as will the SWRB Board Chair and the heads of the professional bodies. 

You can see this event livestreamed from 5pm on our YouTube channel here. It will also be recorded and available later.

Scope of Practice published

We are pleased to report that the social work profession now has a Scope of Practice, following consultation with the sector and great work by the Scope working group, drawn up from leaders across the profession. 

The Scope of Practice has been developed as a high-level description of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand, and has been gazetted and presented in Parliament. 

It applies to practitioners working across all fields of practice and the breadth of social work roles.

It establishes a common high-level description of social work in this country, and the Supporting Narrative document provides the context for the Scope of Practice, and a short explanation of the structure.   

You can find the General Scope of Practice, its supporting narrative, and the consultation feedback, and FAQs here

CPD audit shifts to August

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is about maintaining and enhancing your knowledge and expertise throughout your career which is important to all professionals.   

As you know, your CPD log must be updated each year and the SWRB is auditing (randomly) 5% of the logs submitted. The intention behind this is to have evidence of the work being done on a yearly basis and to see if there are any gaps where improvements could be made to increase overall professionalism.

This year, the CPD audit will be held in August to better align with the practising year (July to end June) and we’ll be asking social workers for the July 2020 to July 2021 log. This will mean that what the SWRB is seeing is closer to the time it occurs.

You can join a digital Q&A session on CPD, hosted by Andrew Thompson, on Tues 23rd March at 1-2 pm via this link. We’ll also be providing the sector with the outcomes of the overall CPD audit.

How ‘enough’ experience is demonstrated

The SWRB Board has been working through applications for the Experience pathway: S13 and refined what they’re looking for in terms of experience. 

As our website states, the Board is looking for at least 10-15 years practising social work in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s important to know that this means the minimum is 10 years’ full-time social work. You can find out about the Experience pathway here.

Farewelling Jan Duke (Chief Advisor Education, Research & Policy, RSW, PhD)

On 26th February, members of the profession and the SWRB farewelled and wished our long-standing staff member and inaugural SWRB Board member Jan Duke all the best for her new challenges that lie beyond SWRB.

Jan started as deputy registrar and became Registrar (registration and education) through until 2017 and then was the Board’s first chief advisor (education, research and policy).

Many at tertiary institutions around the country will know Jan as she regularly visited campuses. All the NZ institutes delivering social work qualifications recognised by the SWRB had their programmes reviewed regularly by Jan. She also worked with providers and the bodies that set standards for social work education and training in NZ to promote and set standards for those programmes.

Jan says, “Mandatory registration has been my goal since I joined the inaugural Board in 2003. The 27th February marked the day that goal was achieved so it is timely that I now move on to a new challenge”.

A long-term supporter of registration of social workers, Jan was also a mentor and advisor to younger staff in the office who appreciated her advice and willingness to share her knowledge.

Haere rā Patsy Kainuku (Senior Māori Advisor Social Work, RSW)

Tēnei te mihi ki a koutou katoa, he mihi mahana ki a koutou,

My time here at SWRB has come to an end, my tupuna are guiding me to a new challenge, one that will see me awhi tautoko in a different way. The kaupapa for me will always be about supporting better outcomes for Māori, something that I am very passionate about.

During my time here at SWRB, I have met with thousands of people; social workers, employers, educators, students and members of the public, and I have enjoyed every moment. Even when faced with those difficult questions there has been nothing more rewarding than sitting, listening and learning.

What I have come to know while being here at SWRB is that Māori have played a significant part in the formation and development of SWRB; the first registered social worker and inaugural Board Chair was Māori, ngā mihi Whaea Robyn Corrigan, and SWRB have had a number of Māori Board members and staff over the years, including our current Chair Shannon Pakura and Board member Hori Ahomiro.

My goal when I came was to koha to the wairua of this space so that I could be felt way after I leave. I want to mihi to those who came before me and those who will come after.

I would like to thank CE Sarah Clark for giving this Māori girl from Murupara an opportunity to sit, listen and learn; because persistence, perseverance and incremental progress will get you through everything! I want to mihi to all social workers, regardless of the spaces we sit in, it is always about the legacy we leave for our mokopuna and to everyone, near and far, ngā mihi.

 He aha te mea nui o tea o, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Chief Advisor Social Work appointed

Catherine Hughes is joining the SWRB in the new role of Chief Advisor Social Work.

She has worked as a frontline health social worker in Aotearoa and overseas, and most recently she was the Clinical Manager of Social Work Services at the CDHB. Prior to that was the Head of Social Practice at Unitec in Auckland where she was an Associate Professor.

Catherine is a registered social worker with a PhD in Social Work, a Bachelor of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts/Psychology, and she has a broad range of leadership experience in the practice and educational sectors. Her research areas are health social work/palliative care and student success in social work education, while her PhD considered the role that culture plays in the journey from diagnosis to the end of life. 

She was born in Christchurch and is a first-generation New Zealander, born from Scottish parents who immigrated to Aotearoa in 1957 on the final sailing of the Captain Cook.

In her role as Chief Advisor Social Work, Catherine will support and encourage social work professionalism through engagement with the practice and education sectors. Her role will include building the sector’s understanding of regulatory and compliance responsibilities, practice competencies and standards, Code of Conduct and future workforce planning, while recognising the Crown-Maori commitment as a Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner. She will be part of the executive team providing internal communication to SWRB Staff, Board and the Minister.

Tribunal cases highlight importance of professional standards

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a marked increase in the numbers of concerns and complaints being raised with the SWRB (see table below) – a reflection of more social workers being on the register and greater awareness of the importance of professional standards. While generating more work it shows that regulation is working as intended – public safety is at the heart of what we do, and it protects the reputation of the profession.

YearNotifications and complaints
2021 to date81

The most serious cases are referred to the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal. This is external to the SWRB – it is a quasi-judicial body with hearings that run in a similar way to a District Court. It is chaired by a lawyer with a panel made up of a lay person and social workers who are the majority.

A short summary of the latest decisions follows. You can see precis and the full decisions here. In our next newsletter we will provide some advice on what lessons can be learnt from recent Tribunal cases.

SWCDT decision Sioeli Vaiangina

The SWCDT considered a charge by the SWRB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) against Mr Sioeli Vaiangina, registered social worker of Auckland. The social worker was charged with not disclosing the police investigation regarding indecently assaulting a young woman under the age of 16 when renewing his Practising Certificate and breaching the Code of Conduct.

The Tribunal considered that the fact and circumstances of the Police warning were sufficient to undermine the trust and confidence the community must be able to hold in a registered social worker.

The social worker’s registration was cancelled, and he was censured. The Tribunal ordered the social worker to pay towards the costs and expenses of, and incidental to the investigation, prosecution, and hearing of the charge.

SWCDT decision name suppressed

The SWCDT considered a charge by the SWRB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) that a social worker, between 2017 & 2018, created two fake identification cards representing that she was employed by Work and Income New Zealand and Oranga Tamariki, when in fact she was not employed by either of those agencies, and visited a client in hospital with those cards displayed.

At the time, the social worker was not registered and the SWDT found that it did not have jurisdiction over pre-registration conduct that is charged as professional misconduct or ‘conduct unbecoming’. The Tribunal decided that the appropriate course was to strike out the charge.

SWCDT decision Pomare Lumsden

The Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge against registered social worker Pomare Lumsden, of Otariki, who was convicted in the District Court of two drug offences including supplying methamphetamine to another person which they both used. The social worker was censured and his registration cancelled.