Onboard newsletter – September 2021

Hei piripiri, hei mokimoki, kei ngā manu tukutuku,

Tēnā rā tatou katoa!

As New Zealand continues to transition down Alert levels and we enter the promise of spring, we are filled with cautious optimism recognising people’s patience and commitment to everyone’s health and safety.

We want to express our support, especially for those in Auckland who have borne the brunt of lockdown and the pressures that has created within communities.

Social work is again in the public eye with the release of the Kahu Aroha report – you may have seen our one-off OnBoard released last week. We chose to delay this (our September newsletter) to allow the sector time to consider the report. In this newsletter we include comments from SWRB Chair, and Ministerial Advisory Board member Shannon Pakura.

Central to the report is the recognition of the value of social work and importance of hearing the voice of the profession. We had an opportunity to celebrate this recently on New Zealand Social Workers’ Day together as a team (September 22nd). The day was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the amazing mahi social workers continue to do every day. We want to help find a way to support social workers celebrate  – see the koha section for more information. Later in this newsletter our Chief Advisor Māori Development shares the origins and meaning of the SWRB whakataukī:He ara pūkenga, he ara Tauwhiro, hei whakamana mātā waka which is central to how we think and act.

Also covered in the newsletter is an update on the ongoing CPD audit, learnings made from a recent Tribunal case, and an introduction to Braden Clark (ANZASW Chief Executive) – the relationship with our professional bodies is an important one for us.

On behalf of the SWRB, ‘Ngā mihi’ to our essential workforce that does an incredible job on the frontline and behind the scenes to support clients and their whānau across Aotearoa New Zealand. Your skills, experience and resilience have been needed more than ever in what has been, and continues to be, a very challenging year for tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities.

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

Sarah Clark
Chief Executive

SWRB Chair’s article on Kahu Aroha

The Kahu Aroha report released by the Ministerial Advisory Board on Oranga Tamariki has been the culmination of months of work looking at Aotearoa’s child protection system, where the pressures were, and what was needed to better support the important work of Oranga Tamariki’s social workers and frontline staff.

As a member of the Board, we held more than 70 hui around the motu and talked to social workers employed by Oranga Tamariki, both in the regions and at its national office, as well as speaking with whanau and communities using its services.

It was a priority for us to understand the difficulties being confronted on a daily basis and to find out what needed to be done to change the system. We were particularly concerned about the wellbeing of care and protection staff. They carry high and complex workloads with minimal support beyond regional offices. The current quality and provision of training and professional development is not at an acceptable standard, and we expect this to be addressed going forward.

The contributions of Oranga Tamariki staff, particularly social workers and other frontline staff, must be better supported and valued. This should help to improve the wellbeing of frontline staff and assist in re-establishing the confidence of social workers as professionals within Oranga Tamariki, confident that the leadership from national office is focused on supporting their work.

It was clear to us that the social work voice within Oranga Tamariki needed strengthening as professional practices, views, opinions, and experience were missing at many levels, including at its leadership group. One professional social work voice at the leadership table of 10 can only be described as inadequate and insufficient. It also seemed to us that trying to replace professional judgement with protocols, tools, and guidelines risks ignoring the fluidity of child protection practice and, in all matters, there must be a space for the professional voice of social work to be heard.  While seeing the scale of the challenge, Oranga Tamariki staff have also impressed on us that they are committed to improving the impact of their work. The Ministerial Advisory Board has recommended that the Office of the Chief Social Worker should be restored as a central role within Oranga Tamariki with enhanced influence across the agency to address the de-professionalisation of its workforce away from social work. The report also recommends that induction, training, continuing professional development, and supervision should be prioritised.

We acknowledged that Oranga Tamariki’s work is hard. Social workers are expected to manage ambiguity, uncertainty, and to make judgements that no other agency or professional is called upon to make, within a system that requires them to constantly reassess priorities.

While Oranga Tamariki has been comprehensively judged already, we observed that other government agencies involved in this space also need to step up as they are not all delivering on their obligations. The focus must be on a collective approach to achieving improved long-term outcomes for tamariki and their whānau.

There is a long way to go but we will press ahead with the full backing of the Cabinet which has accepted all the recommendations within the report. The Ministerial Advisory Board will be closely monitoring to see that the expected changes are put in place. It is time to move from judgement to action, with all energy focused on urgent improvement.

Shannon Pakura
SWRB Chair

New Zealand Social Workers’ Day

Offering a koha

The SWRB believes that the mahi of social workers deserves to be recognised whenever possible. Small gestures like morning tea, compliment boxes, meeting up for a paper bag lunch, every action that demonstrates manaakitanga, shows appreciation and can be done anytime, not just once a year.

In this spirit, the SWRB would like to make a koha available to support organisations to celebrate their social workers. We ask for social workers and/or organisations to nominate groups of social workers who demonstrate the values and principles of social work in the mahi they do every day. This is a small token to recognise the valuable work done by the sector – for up to three organisations.

Please send your nominations to koha@swrb.govt.nz with a brief description of the inspiring mahi they do. Nominations will be shared with and selected by our social work team. We will then be back in touch to let everyone know the outcome – for those selected this could mean a morning or afternoon tea – or something else. We would love the opportunity to share the mahi in future communications if they are happy to share their celebration. 

We hope that this effort may encourage others to acknowledge their ongoing appreciation of our social workers across the motu.

The SWRB and Social Workers from Wesley Community Action (NZ Social Workers Day 2020)

The SWRB whakataukī

In 2020, the SWRB developed a whakataukī for the organisation, to ensure that social work is at the heart of what we do as a regulator. To acknowledge National Social Workers Day and in acknowledgement of our commitment to Te Tiriti O Waitangi, we wanted to share this whakataukī.

This whakataukī was developed through the support of Danny Makamaka of Ngāi Tūhoe, a prominent teacher and kaumātua of Te Wānanga O Aotearoa. Pā Danny took the idea of a whakataukī for the SWRB, to his students to ‘wānanga’ this kaupapa as part of a class session. As a result, the following whakataukī was developed:

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

The whakataukī is now a critical part of forming and shaping the key business functions of the SWRB.

During the wānanga, Pā Danny also posed the following question to the class, what does the word Tauwhiro mean?  Some of the students described Tauwhiro as, ‘social worker/social work’.

In his own eloquent words, Pā Danny shared additional knowledge and wisdom into the space replying with, ‘kia tau ai te mahi ā Whiro’ – settle the presence of Whiro.

Tau is to settle, to subside. The atua Māori (Māori god), Whiro represents darkness and evil. In a secondary sense, Whiro is the personification of illness and afflictions. We all have our own experiences living with the presence of Whiro, and we know that many of our tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities we work with have their own experiences and challenges.

Our Tauwhiro help and support them to move from the dark and into the light; and when they can, from a place of struggle and challenge to an improved quality of life; from a place of vulnerability to a place where they are determining their own pathways to success and achievement. In essence, as enablers of wellbeing, Tauwhiro bring a sense of balance.

To our wonderful Social Workers, our amazing Tauwhiro…Ngā mihi!

Hohepa Patea
Chief Advisor Māori Development

Learnings for social workers from a Social Work Tribunal case

The Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) recently considered a charge against a social worker laid by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) for professional misconduct. The charge alleged the social worker had breached Principles 1,4,5,6, and 9 of the SWRB Code of Conduct.

The social worker was accused of accepting an offer of $1,000 from her client, driving her client to the bank to withdraw the money, and not making any arrangement to repay the money. The client told the Tribunal she had made the offer freely, after the social worker confided in her about concerns for the social worker’s son’s mental wellbeing. The social worker admitted to the PCC that she had accepted the loan without making arrangements to repay it. She stated that she assumed the money would be taken from her final pay by her employer, despite telling her client not to tell anyone about the money and failing to tell her employer about the loan. The borrowed money was repaid by the social worker’s employer when they learned of the loan, and this was deducted from her pay. The social worker resigned soon after the loan was made.

The Tribunal noted the implicit power imbalance in the social worker/client relationship and that the social worker had not taken steps to rectify situation in the interests of her client. The money offered by the client as a result of the social worker sharing her story represented a blurring of professional boundaries, a breach of trust and a conflict of interest.

The Tribunal found that the social worker exploited the relationship she had with her client and took advantage of her vulnerability. It considered that maintaining appropriate professional boundaries is a fundamental skill, obligation, and professional discipline for all social workers, and that social workers who lack the ability to maintain appropriate professional boundaries complicate relationships with clients in a way that is likely to be damaging to the client.

Referencing the Code of Conduct, the Tribunal stated that where a potential or actual conflict of interest arises in our work, social workers are required to tell a supervisor or employer and seek support to address this. This action protects their client’s safety,  the social worker’s reputation, and their employer.

The Tribunal also found that the social worker’s actions put at risk, public trust and confidence in the profession. The Tribunal was concerned that the social worker had made no record of having received the money and she had taken steps to conceal the transaction. If the client had not disclosed it, the offending may never have come to light. The Tribunal thought that Ms Noble’s behaviour in attempting to conceal conduct she knew to be inappropriate significantly aggravated the offending.

The Tribunal found that the charge of professional misconduct had been established, and the breaches of Principles 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9 of the Code of Code were considered to be acts or omissions that brought or would likely bring discredit to the social work profession.

In considering an appropriate penalty, the Tribunal considered the case in relation to the Act, and penalties imposed for similar cases – social work and other regulated professions. Wherever appropriate the Tribunal takes a rehabilitative approach. In this case the social worker had her registration suspended for six months, and she was ordered to complete a professional development programme approved by the SWRB Board on the Code of Conduct and ethical practise, emphasising professional boundaries, at her own expense. She was also ordered to pay 35% of the costs of the PCC and 50% of the costs of the Tribunal totalling $22,781.00.

ANZASW Chief Executive – Braden Clark

Ko Braden Clark ahau. I have recently started in the role as Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW). ANZASW is the largest professional association for social work in Aotearoa New Zealand. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce some of the current work of ANZASW to you.

Review of the supervision policy

ANZASW is leading a piece of work, in conjunction with the SWRB and other partners, around social work supervision in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are currently planning a survey of social workers to understand their current supervision arrangements, to help inform the supervision policy we hope will be endorsed by the SWRB and a broader strategy to strengthen the quality of social work supervision. We will be seeking to hear from as many social workers as possible, so please keep an eye out for this important survey.

Professional Development opportunities

The recent SWRB CPD audit is a timely reminder for all social workers to make sure they are undertaking regular professional development. Did you know ANZASW provides or advertises professional development? You can view our professional development offerings on our website.

We run a large number of online webinars and other professional development events throughout the year. These are typically free for ANZASW members. If you’re not a member, you are now able to attend ANZASW professional development for a small cost. We also have a large collection of previous webinar recordings on our website that members can view for free. You can easily meet your CPD requirements through ANZASW with no additional cost above your annual membership fee!

We invite you to join our community of social workers – membership of the Association provides many benefits to you. As a community, we seek to strengthen and support your professional identity as a social worker. You can find out more information about ANZASW on our website.

Ngā mihi nui,

Braden Clark
Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive, ANZASW

CPD audit

We are currently completing our annual CPD audit for the 20/21 practising year. Thank you to those that have submitted your logs so far, we know that this was complicated with the Covid level changes. If you haven’t submitted yet and need an extension due to lockdown, please contact us at applications@swrb.govt.nz or 0508 797 269.

Those that have submitted their logs will start receiving feedback this week. We will go out to everyone that has been audited, as well as the wider sector with our findings from the audit later in the year.

You can record your CPD at any time through the CPD option at my.swrb.govt.nz

A reminder that keeping your CPD up to date is important regardless of whether you were selected to be audited this year. CPD strengthens your learning, education, and development needs, as identified by yourself, your employer, and/or your supervisor. You can learn more about CPD requirements and how to upload your CPD logs on our website here

Virtual Child Welfare Conference

The international event will bring together innovators, community members, practitioners, and leaders in the field to share and learn from each other. There will be discussions on some of the newest ideas for practice, family and community engagement, policy and organisational change.

The Kempe Centre, Denver, Colorado, is hosting its second virtual conference on Changing Child Welfare on October 4-7th 2021. Please note that this conference starts on 5 October New Zealand time.

To register for the conference or to learn more, go to www.kempeconference.org.