Hōkaitanga o ngā Mahi
Scope of Practice

The General Scope of Practice has been developed as a high-level description of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Scope of Practice applies to practitioners working across all fields of practice and the breadth of social work roles. It supports a shared identity for social workers and establishes a common understanding of social work in this country.  

Changes to the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 required the development of a Scope/s. The SWRB may consider the development of further Scopes of Practice in the future. 

General Scope of Practice

General Scope of Social Work Practice

Scope of Practice Supporting Narrative

Whakataukī: “Awhinatia ngā taonga tuku iho”
Embrace the Wisdom of the Past with the Present

Diagram showing the pepeha

Ko Mana Motuhake te Moemoeaa*
Ko Mana Tangata te Kaupapa
Ko Mana Atua te Ara Taumata
Ko Mana Tipuna te Tikanga

Ko Mana Motuhake te Moemoeaa*
Ko Mana Tangata te Kaupapa
Ko Mana Atua te Ara Taumata
Ko Mana Tipuna te Tikanga
Ko Mana Whenua te Turanga
Ko Manaakitanga te Uaraa

“Ma is the essence”. Mana is the intrinsic nature that all humanity walks with. Mana motuhake drives the direction, mana atua is the protective presence, mana tipuna is the pathway guided by the ancestors, mana whenua is the distinctive source of the pathway and mana tangata is the respectful relationship. The core of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand is centred in manaakitanga.

Practice Lens: Tangata Whenua perspectives on engagement and relationship building draw on traditions that transcend from ancestral realms. Reflecting the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand, engagement and relationship building from other cultural paradigms will look different. Social workers practice through their cultural lens and through the lens of their field of practice, knowledge, experience, and world view. These lenses enable social workers to connect with the narratives of their own paradigms.

*The Niho Taniwha honours John Bradley and Turoa Haronga and the pepeha, acknowledges those iwi who use a double vowel.
The Niho Taniwha kaupapa (image above) was selected to bring the essential components of a Tangata Whenua perspective to the scope Korero

Tauākī Tikanga Mahi, Social Work Practice Statement

He umanga whanaungatanga te tauwhiro hapori, ā, he pūkenga mātauranga hoki e whakauru mai ana i ngā mahi tātari i ngā whakaawenga onāianei, o mua hoki mō ngā āhuatanga hauropi, pāpori, tōrangapū, ā-wairua, ā-hinengaro hoki.

Ka whakatairanga panoni pāpori me te whakamanatanga ngā tauwhiro mā te ū ki ngā mātāpono o te tōkeke ā-iwi, ngā tika tangata, te kawenga ā-iwi me te whakaaro nui ki te kanorautanga.

Ka tuitui ngā tauwhiro i ngā taura here manaaki me te whakaaro nui kia tūturu, kia whai koronga, whai kaupapa hoki hei whakakaha, whakaora me te whakaū i te haumaru me te oranga o te hunga e mahi nei rātau. Ka tautuhia e ngā tauwhiro ngā kaha, ngā hiahia me ngā kōtuinga tautoko hei whakaraupapa i ngā whāinga e whakarei ake i te tūhonohono ā-tangata, me te āwhina ki te whakarite i ngā uauatanga ora, raruraru nui hoki.

Whakamahia ai e ngā tauwhiro ngā tūmomo ariā iwi taketake me te tauwhiro hapori, ngā tikanga hoki i ahu mai i tētahi tohu tauwhiro hapori whai mana, whakangungu, wheako hoki. I takea mai ā rātau tikanga mahi i Te Tiriti o Waitangi, te International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Joint Global Definition of Social Work me te Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles, Ngā Tikanga Matatika a Te Rōpū Tauwhiro o Aotearoa me Ngā Ture Whanonga me ngā Paerewa Kaiakatanga Matua a Te Kāhui Whakamana Tauwhiro.

He whakaritenga pūmau te wetewete whakaaro me te whakawhanaketanga ngaio nō te tikanga mahi tauwhiro hapori.

Ka whakamahia e ngā tauwhiro ō rātau mōhio, pūkenga hoki mā ngā tūmomo āhuatanga, tūranga i ngā taumata whāiti, whānui, whāroa hoki. Kei roto i tēnei ko te mahi tahi me te iwi me ngā whānau, ngā mahi tauwhiro hapori haumanu, te whanaketanga nā te hapori, te tuku tohutohu, rangahau, mātauranga, wetewete whakaaro, takawaenga, taunaki, whakahaerenga, waihanga kaupapahere me te ārahitanga.

Social Work Practice Statement – English 

Social work is a relationship-based profession and an academic discipline that incorporates analyses of current and historical influences including ecological, social, political, economic, spiritual, and psychological factors.

Social workers promote social change and empowerment by adhering to the principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility, and respect for diversity.

Social workers establish caring and respectful relationships with authenticity, intention, and purpose, to strengthen, restore and uphold the safety and wellbeing of those they work with. Social workers identify strengths, needs and support networks to prioritise goals that will enhance social connectedness, and assist in addressing life challenges and major events.

Social workers use a range of indigenous and social work theories, methods and techniques drawn from a recognised social work qualification, training, and experience. Their practice is based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Joint Global Definition of Social Work and Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles, the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Workers Association’s Code of Ethics and the Social Workers Registration Board’s Code of Conduct and Core Competence Standards.

Critically reflective supervision and continuing professional development are ongoing requirements of social work practice.

Social workers apply their knowledge and expertise in a variety of ways and roles at micro, meso and macro levels. This includes direct work with people and whānau, therapeutic social work, community-led development, consultancy, research, education, supervision, facilitation, advocacy, management, policy development and leadership.

Consultation feedback 

Please also see attached the Consultation Feedback Report which briefly describes the process undertaken by the Working Group to include suggested changes, and answer some of the questions raised in feedback by way of Q and As. 

Scope of Practice Consultation Feedback Report

Rōpū (Scope of Practice Working Group)

Photo of the Rōpū (Scope of Practice Working Group)
(Left to Right) Diane Garrett RSW, Paul’e Ruwhiu RSW, Kieran O’Donoghue RSW, Graham Warren, Shannon Pakura RSW, Sally Dalhousie RSW, Rose Henderson RSW, Lucy Sandford-Reed, Sharyn Roberts RSW, Miriama Scott RSW, Shayne Walker RSW, Liz Gourlay RSW.

The SWRB thanks the Scope of Practice Working Group for all their work to develop an Aotearoa-specific General Scope of Practice for the sector, and social workers across the country for contributing their ideas for content early in 2020, and their submissions on the draft Scope of Practice circulated for feedback in the second half of 2020. 

Scope of Practice FAQs

Frequently asked questions

Is the scope of practice a definition of social work?

Some feedback on the draft Scope of Practice referred to it as a definition of social work. The Scope of Practice is a description of social work, not a definition. As noted, the SWRB recognises the Global Definition of Social Work and the Asia/Pacific Amplification, and this will sit within companion documentation to accompany the Scope of Practice.

What parts of the Scope of Practice will be included in the Gazette Notice?

The whole statement – Whakataukī, Pepeha, Practice Lens and Practice Description together make up the Scope of Practice that has been Gazetted.

What is the New Zealand Gazette?

‘The New Zealand Gazette’ is the official newspaper of the New Zealand government. It is an authoritative journal of constitutional record and contains official commercial and government notifications that are required by legislation to be published’. Ref. https://gazette.govt.nz/about-us/

What are prescribed qualifications?

Amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act (the Act) commencing on the 27th February 2021 include Gazetting a Scope of Practice and the qualifications prescribed for the Scope of Practice. These are the Aotearoa New Zealand social work qualifications that are recognised by the SWRB as delivering social work programmes that meet the requirements of social worker registration.

What about social workers with overseas social work qualifications, or who are registered via S13 the Experience Pathway?

Social workers who are registered via section 7 of the Act ‘Entitlement to registration of overseas qualified social workers’, have a qualification that has been recognised as equivalent to a prescribed qualification for a scope of practice.

Social workers who are registered via section 13 of the Act ‘Experience Pathway’, are assessed as having enough practical experience to compensate for the lack of a recognised social work qualification.

Does protection of the title ‘social worker’ mean my job has to be titled social worker?

There was some feedback expressing concern that the Scope of Practice would not apply to a social worker if their job title doesn’t include the words ‘social worker’.

The concept of title protection included in the amended Act means registered social workers can legally be known as/hold themselves out to be or be held out by others as a social worker if they are registered as a social worker.

It does not mean their job title has to be called ‘social worker’.

One of the reasons for keeping the Scope of Practice high level, is to ensure social workers who are working in roles such as lecturer/tutor, manager, supervisor, policy advisor, coordinator, navigator, researcher etc. can still see themselves included.

SWRB advice is that anyone with a recognised social work qualification, working in social services and using their social work knowledge and skills to deliver services and / or influence the practice of social workers at any level (directly or indirectly), is deemed to be practising social work and should be registered.

Scopes of Practice for different fields of practice?

The General Scope of Practice applies across all fields of practice. It is usual for a Scope of Practice to have a qualification pathway associated with it. For example, different types of psychologists – psychologist, clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist, educational Psychologist. Each has a different post graduate qualification associated with it.

At the moment, the SWRB recognises a general social work qualification that enables social workers to work across any field of practice as a beginning practitioner.

The General Scope of Practice is regarded as a foundational Scope of Practice. The SWRB may consider the development of further Scopes of Practice in the future.

How do social workers see themselves in the Scope of Practice – the Practice Lens?

The Practice Lens acknowledges the breadth of perspectives that inform social work practice. Each social worker’s practice is informed by their culture, knowledge, experience, and worldview. The lens statement also acknowledges the field of practice each social worker works within. The field of practice is included in the Practice Lens, to acknowledge the practice context within which they work, and any organisational practice frameworks associated with this.

The Practice Lens introduces the Practice Statement. All social workers are expected to work within the principles, values and standards referred to in the Practice Statement.

What do we mean by paradigms in the practice lens section?

The word paradigm is used as it is inclusive of all the contributing philosophies and approaches that inform a social worker’s practice. It includes the social worker’s ‘…cultural lens and through the lens of their field of practice, knowledge, experience, and worldview’.

How do the sections relate to one another within the Scope of Practice?

The Scope of Practice begins with a whakatauki, gifted by Matua Kereama Warren, SWRB Kahui Chair. It sets the scene for the Pepeha which describes the Niho Taniwha kaupapa. This is included to bring the essential components of a tangata whenua perspective to the scope korero in a way that upholds the authenticity of the tipuna korero. It is one way of doing this, and the Tangata Whenua Caucus of the Working group acknowledges that it is not the only way.

The Practice Lens links the Pepeha with the Practice Statement. The Practice Statement describes at a high level, the principles and elements of practice that are common to all social workers and includes reference to responsibilities and accountabilities. It is the place where social workers share knowledge, and it represents the shared space between different paradigms.

Why the Niho Taniwha kaupapa?

The whakatauki is significant as is talks about bringing the wisdom of the past into the present. The Niho Taniwha kaupapa has a relationship and a history with social work in Aotearoa New Zealand, both in the people who brought it to social work, and in how it was used as a competency process for the Tangata Whenua Takawaenga Caucus members.

The value of the Niho Taniwha kaupapa is it brings in the tipuna korero, with John Bradley and koro Turoa Haronga (life members of ANZASW) being responsible for its adaptation and practice to enhance mana motuhake. The Niho Taniwha kaupapa provided a marae and tikanga-based process to the assessment of social work competence.

Overall approach to development of an Aotearoa-specific Scope of Practice

The concept of Te Ara Whiria, Braided Rivers developed by Angus MacFarlane, which values each worldview, joins together in an agreed way before resuming its own path, and is a metaphor for the way the Scope of Practice has been developed.