Social workers step into mandatory registration

All social workers in New Zealand now need to be registered by the SWRB with mandatory registration in place (implemented February 27th, 2021). 

It’s a great step forward for the profession and one long sought by social workers who will join the ranks of other regulated professionals including teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers.

It’s the SWRB’s role to ensure the safety of the public and enhance professionalism – being registered is part of having the system in place to make that happen. 

It will also reassure the public that all social workers are part of a fully registered workforce which adheres to a Code of Conduct and understands its professional obligations, strengthening trust in the profession.

Who must be registered

You need to be registered if you:

  • call yourself a social worker,
  • are known as a social worker, or
  • are held out to be a social worker

Who we would advise to register

If you have a social work qualification and work in social services, we would advise that best practice is you would become registered.  You are in all likelihood using your social work skills and knowledge in the role, and you can be practising social work even if it is not in your job title (see below for what is social work practice). Being registered supports social workers to enhance professional accountability to each other and the profession as a whole.

For employers, having registered social workers shows your organisation supports and stands behind a fully professional workforce which adheres to the SWRB’s Code of Conduct. By supporting a registered social worker, regardless of whether the position is called social work, you know your staff is required to meet the standards set by the profession. That helps to build trust and shows the public you take your obligations to public safety seriously. 

How to register

Find out how to register.

Social work practice

Practising social work can include any one or more of the following:

  • working directly with clients, including whānau, hapū and community
  • being involved with casework decisions at any level
  • managing and/or supervising other social workers
  • if you apply your social work values, skills, ethics, and knowledge in your role
  • teaching social work practice or theory
  • developing policy that impacts upon social work practice

Find out about the Scope of Practice.

What happens if social workers are not registered in a mandatory environment?


  • As the regulator, the SWRB registers social workers and is responsible for setting standards  requiring social workers to be competent, fit to practise, and accountable for their practice.  (Obviously, the sector has responsibilities to adhere to those standards, ie educators in  educating for competence, social workers when practising (fit to practise) and a shared  responsibility between social workers and employers to be accountable for that practice.) 
  • We are urging anyone who is not yet registered to apply.  It’s really important that if you or someone you know or work with is practising as a  social worker but is not yet registered, that you/they begin the process of applying. 
  • If you are not registered, you will no longer be able to call yourself a social worker, and employers will not be able to hold staff out as social workers until you/they become registered. 

Ministry of Social Development

  • The Ministry of Social Development is responsible for ensuring that anyone who should be registered as a social worker has obtained registration or has applied to the SWRB for it.
  • The Ministry encourages every social worker to be registered, and it will work with the SWRB to ensure this happens.   
  • The Ministry is developing a risk assessment approach about how and when it will act where it learns of social workers who knowingly continue in their role without being registered.
  • If you become aware of a social worker practising without being registered, you can contact MSD via

Other information 

  • What the SWRB can tell you is that if you have submitted your application to become registered, it shows good intent. If you have concerns, please discuss the matter with your  employer. 
  • The SWRB has been encouraging all social workers to apply for registration over the last couple of years by sending out information about the implementation of mandatory  registration.  This has come through newsletters, emails, messages via Facebook,  roadshows, and, over the last year, weekly Zoom Q&A sessions open to everyone in the  sector.  There have also been information packs sent to employers around the country (1,000 sites) in Feb & Oct 2020 with reminders social workers need to become registered. 

Experience pathway: S13

If you have lots of practical social work experience in New Zealand, but not an SWRB-recognised social work qualification, you may still be eligible to register under our Experience pathway: S13.