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Tribunal decisions

The most serious disciplinary cases concerning social workers are referred to the Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal  

Independent of the SWRB, the Tribunal is the disciplinary decision-making body which is quasi-judicial and its process is similar to that of a court. 

The Tribunal is drawn from a pool of people, with each hearing consisting of five, including three social workers, a layperson, and the chair or deputy chair (experienced barristers) who prepare, preside over the hearing, and finally issue a written decision.   

Decisions can include: 

  • no further action  
  • censuring the social worker 
  • placing conditions on the social worker’s practise  
  • suspending the social worker from practising   
  • cancellation of the social workers registration. 

Find out more about the complaints process here

Increasing complaints and costs

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of complaints and notifications received by the SWRB, in part due to the introduction of mandatory reporting requirements under the Social Workers Registration Act. 

The Tribunal hearings are often held where the social worker is located so involve costs for the travel and the hearing but as a result of Covid-19, more hearings are now being held remotely.   

The SWRB funds Tribunal hearings and while costs may be sought, the social worker’s ability to pay must be taken into account  which means that usually SWRB recover only a small portion of the actual costs, if anything. There is a direct relationship between the increasing number of disciplinary matters and their associated costs. The SWRB funds these costs through the disciplinary levy.  If the numbers of disciplinary matters rise, then so too does the disciplinary levy to meet these costs. 

The increase in complaints shows the regulatory system is working which protects the reputation of social workers as unprofessional behaviour is held to account, and the SWRB assesses and takes action.

Complaints against registered social workers

1 July 2021 – 30 June 2022

SWDT decision name suppressed

The Tribunal considered a charge against a registered social worker. The charge alleged the social worker accessed CYRAS records that related to her family members and provided a confidential report to the Family Court as part of an application by the daughter of the social worker’s partner to have the daughter’s two children, returned to the daughter’s care. The Tribunal found that the social worker acted in breach of Principle 1, 3, 7 and 9 of the Code of Conduct.

The Tribunal censured the social worker and conditions were imposed.  She was also ordered to pay costs totalling $2,500.00 in contribution to the hearing. See full decision:

SWDT decision Alazay Noble

The Tribunal considered a charge against Alazay Noble, a registered social worker of Tauranga. The charge alleged the social worker dishonestly obtained $500 from a contractor to her then employer. The Tribunal found that the social worker breached principles 1, 8 and 9 of the Code of Conduct.

The social worker’s registration was already cancelled due to the earlier disciplinary charge. Had the social worker still been registered, the Tribunal was satisfied that cancellation would have been an appropriate penalty. The Tribunal censured the social worker and she was also ordered to pay costs totalling $10,887.00 in contribution to the hearing. See full decision:

1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021

SWDT decision Pomare Lumsden

The Tribunal considered a charge against Pomare Lumsden, registered social worker of Otariki, who was convicted in the District Court of two drug offences, including supplying methamphetamine to another person which they both used. The social worker was censured and his registration cancelled. See full decision:

SWDT decision Bessie Hanley

The Tribunal heard a charge against Bessie Mihiroa Hanley, registered social worker of Hastings, who was convicted of indecent assault. The social worker admitted the charge and resigned her position.

The Tribunal censured the social worker and conditions were imposed for a period of two years commencing when she returns to a social work role.  She was also ordered to pay towards the costs of the hearing. See full decision:

SWDT decision name suppressed

The Tribunal considered a charge that a social worker, between 2017 & 2018, created two fake identification cards representing that she was employed by Work and Income New Zealand and Oranga Tamariki, when in fact she was not employed by either of those agencies, and visited a client in hospital with those cards displayed. At the time, the social worker was not registered and the Tribunal found it did not have jurisdiction over pre-registration conduct that is charged as professional misconduct or ‘conduct unbecoming’.

The Tribunal decided that the appropriate course was to strike out the charge.  See full decision:

SWDT decision Sioeli Vaiangina

The Tribunal considered a charge against Sioeli Vaiangina, registered social worker of Auckland. The social worker was charged with not disclosing the police investigation regarding indecently assaulting a young woman under the age of 16 when renewing his practising certificate, and breaching the Code of Conduct.

The Tribunal considered that the fact and circumstances of the Police warning were sufficient to undermine the trust and confidence the community must be able to hold in a registered social worker. The social worker was censured and his registration cancelled. The Tribunal ordered the social worker to pay towards the costs of the charge. See full decision below:

SWDT decision name suppressed

The Tribunal heard a charge against Ms S, provisionally registered social worker of Auckland. The social worker was sentenced, by the Auckland District Court, to ten months’ home detention for indecent acts to a young person under the age of 16.

The Tribunal found that the offences were committed in circumstances that reflected adversely on the social worker’s fitness to practise and upheld the charge. The social worker was censured and her registration was cancelled. The Tribunal ordered the social worker to pay towards the costs and expenses of the hearing. See full decision below:

SWDT decision Jubert Moeke

The Tribunal heard a charge against Jubert Moeke, registered social worker of Papamoa Beach, who was charged with professional misconduct (sending inappropriate messages to an underaged individual).

The social worker was found to have breached the code of conduct, was censured and his registration cancelled. The Tribunal ordered the social worker to pay towards the costs and expenses of the hearing. See full decision below:

SWDT decision Kathleen Noble

The Tribunal considered a charge against Ms Kathleen Noble, registered social worker of Palmerston North. The charge alleged that the social worker accepted a loan of $1,000 from a client, drove her client to the bank so her client could withdraw the $1,000 to give to her, did not make arrangements to repay the $1,000, did not repay the $1,000 until it was deducted by her employer from her pay, and breached the Code of Conduct.

The Tribunal considered the conduct was a serious departure from what is expected of a social worker and was professional misconduct because it involved multiple breaches of the Code of Conduct and brought, or would likely bring, discredit to the social work profession. The social worker was censured, her registration suspended for six months, and ordered to undergo professional development. She was also ordered to pay costs towards the investigation, prosecution, and hearing. See full decision below:

SWDT decision Alazay Noble

The Tribunal considered a charge against Ms Alazay Noble, then a registered social worker of Tauranga. The charge alleged that the social worker was convicted in the District Court on a charge of theft under the Crimes Act 1961 for stealing $11,513.50 from her former employer. It was alleged that the offence was committed in circumstances which reflected adversely on the social worker’s fitness to practice under the Social Workers Registration Act 2003.

The Tribunal was satisfied that the facts established the theft conviction and that there was no doubt the social worker’s offending reflected adversely on her ability to discharge her ethical and professional obligations as a social worker. The Tribunal considered a social worker must always demonstrate they act in accordance with the law. The Tribunal ordered that the social worker have her registration cancelled, be censured, and pay toward the costs of the PCC investigation and Tribunal hearing.

SWDT decision Fiona Pearce

The Tribunal considered a charge against Ms Fiona Pearce, provisionally registered social worker of Christchurch. The charge alleged conduct amounting to professional misconduct and engagement in conduct that brought or would likely bring discredit to the social work profession. The allegations arose in relation to processes in relation to two clients’ medication.

The Tribunal was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the particulars of the charge were established and that the conduct in relation to each client was a breach of multiple principles of the Code of Conduct. The Tribunal considered those breaches were a significant departure from the conduct that the public and profession would expect of a reasonable social worker. Further, the Tribunal held that the social worker’s conduct brought or would likely bring the profession into disrepute. The Tribunal ordered that the social worker be censured, practise under the condition that she provide a copy of the Tribunal’s decision to any prospective/future employers for two years from return to practice, undergo a professional development programme, and pay toward the costs of the PCC investigation and Tribunal hearing.

1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020

SWDT decision Luisi

The Social Workers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal found registered social worker Robert Luisi was employed as a social worker but worked without a practising certificate for several years. The Tribunal censured Mr Luisi and ordered him to pay a fine and a portion of costs. See full decision below.

SWDT decision Harrison

The Disciplinary Tribunal found that registered social worker Chapman Harrison breached professional boundaries in relation to his interactions with a teenage girl who he met when she attended a youth programme he was in charge of, and with whom he shared whakapapa. She was in a vulnerable state, having suffered bullying and having a risk of self-harm. In addition to providing her with social work services without appropriate supervision (particularly given the conflict of interest), he allowed their personal relationship to develop in a way that went outside of his professional obligations, including sending text messages with inappropriate content and purchasing her personal gifts (a cell phone and perfume). Additionally, during this time, the Tribunal found that Mr Harrison was practising social work without having a practising certificate.

The Tribunal determined that Mr Harrison breached the Code of Conduct and that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct. They censured him and made orders that he undertake training on professional boundaries, cultural competence, and communication; and that he be subjected to a period of 2 years’ supervision. He was ordered to pay costs of $500. See full decision below.

1 July 2012 – 30 June 2013