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Competence assessment guidelines

We regularly receive queries from social workers seeking guidance on how to complete a competence assessment. The following provides guidelines on what to include in each section of the application.

1. Practice Study

A practice study is a written account of a real-life situation that illustrates the competency of your current social work practice.  It describes what you did in that practice situation, demonstrates the links you make between theory and practice, and shows your ability to reflect, learn, and share your practice.  A Practice Study is your journey; it is about what you did as the social worker.

Your Practice Study needs to cover an actual case you have been involved in from beginning to end.

Presenting situation

Clearly outline what the situation is – for example the age of the client, what they are presenting with, the context within their family/whanau situation, any background of note, any personal matters relating to why you as a social worker might be involved with them.

Social work assessment

Before you intervene in any situation, you need to undertake an assessment to gain knowledge of people within their context.  A good assessment will help to guide all other social work you undertake in relation to a situation, and its importance should not be underestimated.

The information you need to detail in this section could include:

  • how you assessed the client,
  • what theory, methods and models of social work you used, why and how.
  • What did you actually do as part of the assessment process?
  • What was the outcome of your assessment?
  • How did the assessment process guide your other social work?


A plan is what you as the social worker, in conjunction with the client, are trying to achieve. A work plan will help you and the client to stay on task. A plan should identify where the client wants to get to, in what timeframe and why. What review times are you going to put in the plan and why? Who is going to be part of the plan and why? What goals are you and the client wanting to achieve?


This asks you what you did, how you did it and why? What specific interventions did you undertake and why? How did you engage with the client and why? What are the actions that you actually undertook as the social worker? What theory, methods and models of social work guided your work, why and how?


In this section, you need to outline what the result of your social work was. Do you think you made a difference? If so, why and how? If not, why not? If you think your social work was effective, what evidence do you have for this? What specific targets were achieved, why and how? What was the overall outcome?

2. Self Reflection

Reflect on your social work practice against the SWRB’s 10 core competence standards and provide a short narrative that describes and presents evidence of your competence to practice social work.

Where your self reflection has identified areas of your practice that could be strengthened through further professional development, provide comment on these areas – for example, what steps are you taking to gain this development?

Self reflection is a key component of social work.

Your self reflection should incorporate comment on various elements of your social work practice such as cultural competence, knowledge and skills, ethical practice, accountability, professionalism, best practice, supervision and the development of social work skills.

Carefully consider the bullet points under each competence, and while you don’t need to address every bullet point individually, they are there to guide you on what is required under each competence standard.


Competence 6: Competence to understand and articulate social work theories, indigenous practice knowledge, other relevant theories, and social work practice methods and models.

Under Competence 6 you will need to clearly outline a range of theories, methods and models of social work and how you apply these in your social work practice.

What social work theories inform your practice? What social work models do you use and how? What methods of social work do you employ, why and how?

If you are going to demonstrate evidence of ecological theory, what is your knowledge of this?

How does ecological theory inform your practice?  Provide a short example.

Te Whare Tapa Wha – what do you know of the pou that make up this model?

How do you put the components of Te Whare Tapa Wha into practice? What is it that you actually do, why and for what purpose?

We hope these guidelines will help you to complete your competence assessment application.  If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at