Social Workers Registration Act – Questions and answers

Legislation was before Parliament early in 2019 which makes changes to social worker registration. Below are some questions and answers about the effects of the new Act. If you have other questions, please contact us

1) What is the purpose of the changes to the Social Workers Registration Act?
The new Act has a dual intent – to protect the public and to lift the standing of the social work profession.

2) What is the main change as a result of the new Act?
Registration of social workers will be mandatory, this is something SWRB has wanted to see for some time. We believe mandatory registration is vital for building the standard of the profession and being able to provide the public with assurances around social work quality and accountability.

3) What will be the benefit of mandatory registration?
Mandatory registration will help to increase the trust and transparency within the sector, it will ensure public safety and will put social work on an equal footing with other similar professions.

4) What are the immediate changes for registered social workers?
The most important is the change to the way we assess competence for social workers. Under the new regime SWRB assumes social workers are competent at the time of registration, based on your New Zealand qualification. You will no longer have to submit a competence assessment.

However the Board still needs to make sure social workers are competent on an ongoing basis. Therefore the SWRB will carry out a random audit of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs each year starting after July 2019. It is very important you keep your log up to date in case you are selected to be audited. We will provide more information on the process once the new system is in place.

The other change for registered social workers is their responsibility to let us know if they’ve got any serious health issues. (read more below).

5) What are the immediate changes for employers?
Under the new legislation employers are required to report to the Board if they have any concerns about any of their social workers in regard to:

  • Competency
  • Serious misconduct
  • Their mental or physical condition

The Board will work with the sector to develop guidance of how serious misconduct is defined.

6) What is the timeframe for non-registered social workers to be registered?
Non-registered social workers have until 2021 to become registered.

7) How quickly will the changes happen?
Some changes will come into effect immediately and others will be phased over the next two years. There will also be a period of transition while we work through new processes and update our policies. There will be an information campaign to inform the sector of the changes and what they mean.

8) What is the Scope of Practice referred to in the Act?
The General Scope of Practice will provide guidance on what constitutes practising social work. The Scope is a new development, and was included following feedback to the Minister from the sector. While there was no requirement for a Scope of Practise SWRB worked with the sector in 2017 to develop our own General Scope of Practice guidance. This will be the starting point for our consultation with the sector in 2019/2020.

Specialist scopes may be developed over time in consultation with the sector including social workers, professional bodies, educators and employers.

The final Scope will be determined by the SWRB which consists of a majority of registered social workers.

9) What will the changes mean for registered social workers?
Professional development continues to be a priority for both their own development and for the safety of the public. We will be changing the way we assess competence over the next couple of years to line up with good practice. In the meantime, from July 2019 we will be auditing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) logs so it is vital that social workers keep these current. Because we are introducing new ways of assessing competence, they won’t need to do competency recertification every five years.

As part of our commitment to protecting the public, social workers need to let us know if they have any serious health concerns that could impact on their practice – we’ll work with them to support them through this.

Registration will now be mandatory and social workers will need to renew their annual practicing certificate every year (they can do this from 3 May 2019).

10) What will the changes mean for non-registered social workers?
Non-registered social workers have until 2021 to be registered.

They will need to register to keep practising as a social worker, if they call themselves a social worker or are known as a social worker.

Processing of registration applications could take several months. To streamline the process those applying need to ensure all the necessary paperwork is in order before submitting an application.

Practising social workers who fail to obtain registration by 2021 could face prosecution instigated by the Ministry for Social Development.

11) What does it mean for employers?
Employers can show support by encouraging staff to become registered and to hold their annual practising certificate.

It’s important that any current non-registered social workers apply to register and any new staff are registered.

Under the new legislation employers are required to report to the Board if they have any concerns about any of their social workers in regard to:

  • Competency
  • Serious misconduct
  • Their mental or physical condition