Scope of Practice

The SWRB is developing a Scope of Practice and we’re seeking to reflect your feedback because it’s important your voice is heard.

A Scope of Practice is a high-level description of social work practice, and it supports a shared identity for social workers across different work settings (fields of practice), roles and employment titles, and establishes a common understanding of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Scope of Practice Social Workers Registration Board
Social workers in Christchurch working on developing a Scope of Practice

Scope of Practice discussion document

We have had feedback from across the sector, with the main themes and words captured below:

Scope of Practice Social Workers Registration Board

For a more comprehensive document, you can download the feedback from social workers (below) or click on the arrow on Feedback on Scope (below) to read it:

What social workers have said Feb 2020

Feedback on Scope

What social workers have said is important to include in the Scope of Practice, so far:

1 Purpose:

  • Support for people, whānau and communities to be healthy, safe, and flourishing
  • Support for people, whānau and communities at times of adversity and to be resilient against future trauma and shocks
  • Helping people make sense of their situation, regain a sense of purpose and reach their potential, empowerment, tino rangatiratanga)
  • Strengthen emotional and social wellbeing
  • Encourage and support people to live their best lives by working with and challenging individual and societal structures and barriers
  • Address social issues (access to resources, human rights, stigma, poverty) addressing discrimination, inequity and inequality
  • Reduction of harm and offending
  • Changing discourse from needs to rights
  • Addressing impact of colonisation and oppression, as well as identifying and challenging institutional racism
  • Engage with multiple intersecting systems for change and address lack of co-ordination and integration of services
  • Upholding the principles of Te Tiriti (bi-cultural practice, decolonising practise)
  • Facilitate whānau and community connections and sustainable change for people, whānau and communities
  • Promoting social justice, challenge injustice
  • Relationship building and maintenance / help clients with building relationships (whanaungatanga- establishing, engaging in and building relationships)
  • To create a space to empower service users to take control of their own waka. Social workers are warriors who share values, beliefs and vision to guide the waka
  • Support people and communities with issues of intergenerational trauma to change and grow, while advocating for systemic change, access to resources and skills
  • Support personal and community empowerment

2 Activities:

  • Support work with service users, write and implement social policy, advocate for marginalised groups. Educate self and others
  • Support and facilitate care for the environment, impacts of climate change, disaster management and resilience support
  • Wellbeing advisor (life coach, family violence support, encourager, glue, family/relationship therapy, bridge builder, mentor, SWiS, consultant, whānau coordinator, liaison and support, connector etc)
  • Manager, researcher, supervisor, counsellor, kaimahi, cultural advisor, community development worker, facilitator, youth worker, probation officer

3 Methods:

  • Relational approach – with clients, other agencies, colleagues
  • Able to hold complexity and a holistic frame
  • Be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity
  • Be a conduit and bridge between systems – brokerage, build connections to promote relationship-building
  • Change agent – social change
  • Advocacy (across micro, meso and macro levels in society)
  • Showing respect for, and work competently with diversity in language, culture, gender, sexuality and worldviews
  • Collaboration and community partnerships and participation
  • Whanaungatanga, relationship building and maintenance / help whānau to building relationships
  • Social work process – engagement, assessment, intervention, closure (engage, assess, analyze, plan, set goals, intervene, review, close, evaluate)
  • Show respectful engagement and relationship building – support tino rangatiratanga and whakapapa connections, demonstrate kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga, acknowledge mana whenua,)
  • Minimise power imbalances (understanding social need an impact and issues of power and control)
  • Critically reflective practise
  • Kanohi ki te kanohi
  • Assess risk, minimise harm, work with risk
  • Indigenous knowledge, use of Te Reo, and indigenous models of social work practice, social science theories and models, and awareness of legislation, policy and practice models – cultural knowledge
  • Understanding of child development
  • Decolonising approaches and practices
  • Identify service gaps and support development of community responses, and policy
  • Use a range of assessments, models and tools to assist with positive change
  • Person/whānau-centred, person and whānau led, and holistic whānau in community and society approaches
  • Challenge systems
  • Case management, team approach
  • Provide information, interpersonal skills, reframe, role model behaviour, identify and support to build on strengths, educate (micro, meso and macro levels), support with transitions
  • Trauma-informed practice
  • Engagement, assessment, intervention, transition, evaluation
  • Collaborative, inter-agency work
  • Courageous conversations
  • Ecological framework – seek to understand a person in their environment
  • Active listening
  • Appreciating clients’ own expertise
  • Academic knowledge (theories, approaches, skills)
  • Bi-cultural and multi-cultural practice
  • Abide by Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct
  • Task-centred and strengths-based
  • Anti-oppressive practice


  • Professional creep – boundaries
  • Up to date in law-/legislation
  • Social justice, human rights, equity
  • Understand social work occurs in a wider ecological system – structural issues impact on people – social work works is holistic and focused on social change
  • Social change agents – inspire and facilitate change
  • Importance of self-care and self-awareness
  • Social workers as role models
  • Will scope be translated into Māori?
  • Evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence
  • Social workers should be fully involved in policy making at organisational and national level.
  • Social workers should not be in the position of trying to make people change their minds to accept the situation/s they are in

We have been able to engage with members of the sector through email, an online survey, different roadshow events across New Zealand, and a webinar led by the ANZASW. We will continue to engage with the sector to ensure your voices are heard and reflected. Once we have finished this first stage, the Scope will be returned to the sector for another round of feedback.

What is a general Scope of Practice?

A general scope of practice for social work describes at a high level, the

  • activities of social work – including the breadth of social work practice/roles
  • purpose of social work – the needs social workers address in their work/the outcome being sought from social work intervention
  • methods of social work – how social workers do their work, including reference to the knowledge, skills, interventions and strategies social workers use.

For Aotearoa New Zealand, the Scope of Practice will be informed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a founding document of our nation, our laws and codes.

The detailed knowledge, skills, ethics and values required of social workers will be described in the SWRB Code of Conduct and Competence Standards, and the ANZASW Code of Ethics.

You can find further information about the changes to the Social Workers Registration Act here.