I recently had the privilege of meeting Te Ururoa Flavell, senior staff, and social work students at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
There was a lot of discussion about the value of social work and its important role in contributing to the wellbeing of our society.
There were also questions about the process for students to be registered once qualified, and about what the recent changes to the legislation means for social workers, employers and the public.
You can find out more about the amendments to the Act here and a snapshot of the changes is at the end of this newsletter.
Sarah Clark, chief executive SWRB.
The annual Workforce Survey is now posted on the SWRB website which we’d encourage you to fill out as it gives an indication of trends and what is happening for social workers and the sector.
The survey is divided into four sections: about you as a social worker, your qualifications, your registration, and your employment.
The purpose of the survey is to collect information for an overview of the registered social worker workforce at national and local levels. The information collected is anonymous, is not associated with your registration number, and will be used to produce aggregate reports on workforce composition, workforce trends, and to plan for workforce development.
The information gathered last year started to build the evidence and a picture for Ministers and government agencies, policy people and others in the sector about what’s going on within the profession.
This is a short survey that should take no more than ten minutes of your time.
Practising Certificate and fees
You will have recently been contacted by us as a reminder to renew your Practising Certificate, which is due by 1 July.
We’d like to take the opportunity to clarify the changes to the fees and levies with some removed, some the same, and a re-introduction of the disciplinary levy.
The Practising Certificate fee did not go up this year and it remains at $368. We have not raised that fee for the last nine years, since 2010, unlike many other regulators where there have been increases.
The Registration fee has also not changed from last year and remains at $345.
We’ve also removed the 5 year re-certification fee as the way we assess competence will be re-developed.
What has changed is that we have restored a disciplinary levy ($50) to cover the costs of doing that work, as that has grown substantially, which you can find out more about below.
The SWRB recently undertook a review to ensure that the fees and levies fairly represent the costs of doing the work.
It may be helpful to know that we use the funds to cover the costs of reviewing social workers’ application forms and templates, maintaining and developing the competence framework, responding to enquiries from the sector, dealing with disciplinary processes, running the website, submissions, undertaking consultation, developing policy including the Scope of Practice, and holding Board meetings.
We’re a Crown entity so we’re part of government and follow the policy and guidelines of the Office of the Auditor General and Treasury for setting charges in the public sector. They ask for fees and levies to be reviewed regularly and the guidelines state they should be no more than the amount necessary to recover costs.
The SWRB fees come in at the lower end of the scale for regulators and here’s where you can check the gazetted fees for 2019/20.
We restored the disciplinary levy ($50) this year to fairly represent the costs of managing complaints and disciplinary processes, including running the Tribunal and Professional Conduct Committees.
The SWRB deals with a number of cases every year of either concerns or complaints.
This is an area which has grown substantially in the last two years, and with the revised legislation is likely to continue to do so.
Last year, over 100 notifications of concern were lodged with the SWRB. Currently we have 13 cases before Professional Conduct Committees (PCC), all of which require management and resourcing. The most serious cases are referred to the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.
Both the Tribunal and the PCCs have a mix of social workers and lay people, and uphold an important principle of the profession holding itself to account for competence and safe practice.
The increase in notifications has led to the addition of a new role at the SWRB; that of legal advisor-complaints.
As a social worker, you can be assured that our approach to dealing with these concerns is based on natural justice and procedural fairness, and you have the opportunity to respond or be represented throughout the process.
By law, we can only deal with concerns about registered social workers.
If somebody has a concern about the standard of social work service they receive, they are advised in the first instance to discuss their issues with you the social worker. If this is not possible, we suggest they write to you or your manager outlining their concerns.
There are times when the issue can’t be resolved and a concern can be lodged with the SWRB. Our focus is on public safety and improving professional standards and we believe this is best achieved by education and other non-disciplinary means, where possible.
Our usual process is to forward the concern to the social worker involved for a response. The information from both the social worker and the person who raised the concern is looked at by the SWRB triage team to consider, and decide what, if any, further action is required.
That decision will be sent to both parties and if necessary, it will be dealt with under either our Conduct, Competence or Health processes. You can find further information about the complaints process here.
We are preparing for a busy year ahead. There will be an information campaign developed and we will be meeting as many social workers as possible to discuss the changes under the Act.
You can find a snapshot of the changes below.
We’re anticipating an increase in the number of social workers registering, and we will be consulting with the sector about our competence framework, and a Scope of Practice.
The recent amendments to the Act require the development of a Scope of Practice about what social work entails. The SWRB outlined a Scope of Practice in 2017 and this will help start the conversation for the development of a new Scope of Practice. This will take some time and input from the sector. Consultation on this is likely towards the end of the year.
A snapshot of changes under the Act
There are a number of changes for social workers and the way they work after amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act earlier this year. The following provides a snapshot of what the major changes will be, along with what stays the same.
- All practising social workers will have to be registered
- You must become registered by 28 February 2021 – please be aware that the registration process can take some months
- From that date, the title ‘social worker’ is protected and you or your employer will not be able to say you are a social worker unless you are registered.
- All registered social workers must hold a Practising Certificate, which is renewed each year.
- The competence assessment for NZ-qualified social workers, at the time of registration, has been removed
- Educational institutions will be required to sign off on the competence of each graduate
- The 5 year re-certification of registered social workers has been removed
- Overseas-qualified social workers are still required to complete a full competence assessment
- New ways of assessing competence will be introduced.
- Audits of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs will be done annually
All social workers are required to keep their CPD logs up to date and ready to be audited each year
Reporting serious health issues
- If you are a social worker, or you know of a social worker, who has serious health issues, you are now required to let the SWRB know.
Scope of Practice
- A Scope of Practice will be developed in consultation with the sector
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