Code of Ethics/ Ko te Tauākī Tikanga

The adoption of a Code of Ethics is one of several necessary conditions for a vocational grouping to be known as a “profession”. ANZASW has had a Code of Ethics since its inception. However, in the absence of regulatory or disciplinary procedures, the Code was largely symbolic. The Association started work on complaints procedures in the mid-1980s, but in the absence of any serious matters raised by clients, and the lack of an infrastructure to deal with them, the Code was not put to a real test until an Ethics Committee was formed in 1993.

The then NZASW had adopted an Interim Code of Ethics at its founding meeting in 1964. That interim code was eventually overtaken by the decision to adopt the International Federation of Social Workers’ code, in the so-called “Puerto Rico” version, after the 1976 conference there.

In 1993 the Ethics Committee was established and given responsibility for the resolution of complaints received by ANZASW. Later that year the first ANZASW Code of Ethics and Bicultural Code of Practice was adopted by members. The Bicultural Code of Practice, 1993 version, originated in the acknowledgements by (A)NZASW of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Objects of the (A)NZASW Constitution (July 1989). The Bicultural Code of Practice continues to be incorporated in the ANZASW Code of Ethics in recognition of the Treaty relationship.

The 1993 Code became the seminal referent for the work of the Ethics Committee as it began to accept and process complaints of ethical breaches made against ANZASW members. Included in its terms of reference was the mandate periodically to review and recommend revisions to the Code. Work was begun on a review in 2003 and carried forward into 2004, resulting in a revision of Section 1.4 (sexual relationships) and the adoption of a new Section 5 Responsibility in Supervisory Relationships.

The 2007 revision of the Code was started in mid 2005 partly in response to the decision of the Social Workers Registration Board to include the Code in the list of recommended guides to professional conduct. Following extensive consultation with members of ANZASW the current Bilingual Code of Ethics was adopted by the ANZASW National Council in 2007 and the new publication was released in March 2008 and again in 2013.

Membership of the Association brings with it an obligation to study, incorporate into professional practice, adhere to and promote the Code of Ethics. All parts of the Code should be read together, and be regarded as having equal status.

Code of Ethics 2013, Chapter 7

This chapter outlines those few milestones in ANZASW history when ethical guides were adopted, and includes the acknowledgements to individuals and organisations which have appeared in earlier versions of the Code of Ethics.

The then NZASW adopted an Interim Code of Ethics at its founding meeting in 1964.[1] That interim code was prepared for the new Association by Brian Manchester. That interim code was eventually overtaken by the decision to adopt the International Federation of Social Workers code, in the so-called “Puerto Rico” version, after the 1976 conference in that country.

An Interim Ethics Committee was established during 1993. Responsibilities of that committee included investigating reported breaches of Standards of Practice of members and for overseeing the preparation and publication of this Code. The committee members were: Lynne Briggs (Convenor), Jenny Blagdon, Liz Chesterman, Raylee Kane, and Fiona Robertson.

John Hopkins (a former Probation Officer, teacher of social work and later a consultant in private practice) was employed by the Ethics Committee to prepare the draft of the document which was adopted later in 1993 by members as the initial Code of Ethics and Bicultural Code of Practice. ANZASW acknowledges, then and now, the significant effort John put into completing this task. Financial grants by the Minister of Social Welfare and the New Zealand Lotteries Board assisted in meeting the setting-up costs of producing the Code.

At that time, the following Codes of Ethics were consulted in the preparation of the Code of Ethics of the New Zealand Association of Social Workers (Inc):

  • Australian Association of Social Workers Ltd Draft Code of Ethics (prepared by the South Australian Branch Ethics Working Party);
  • Family Court – Code of Ethics for Counsellors, and the Family Court – Code of Practice for Counsellors;
  • NZ Association of Counsellors/Te Roopu Kaiwhiriwhiri o Aotearoa;
  • NZ Association of Psychotherapists (Inc) Code of Ethics;
  • NZ Law Society Code of Ethics – Interpretations and notes on the conduct of practitioners;
  • NZ Medical Association Code of Ethics;
  • NZ Psychological Society Code of Ethics;
  • Waitomo Abused Persons Support Group Code of Ethics;
  • The former International Code of Ethics for the Professional Social Worker, adopted by the International Federation of Social Workers General Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 10, 1976.

ANZASW acknowledged the assistance afforded by these Codes. In particular, acknowledgement was given to the NZ Psychological Society for the use that has been made of their Code of Ethics in the Research and Publications section of the 1993 Code. The assistance of Frances Joychild and Sylvia Bell, Human Rights Commission, Auckland, was also acknowledged.

The Bicultural Code of Practice, 1993 version, originated in the acknowledgements by the New Zealand Association of Social Workers (Inc) of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the Objects of the NZASW Constitution (July 1989). The original work underpinning the Bicultural Code of Practice was undertaken by the then NZASW Standing Committee on Racism, and its work is acknowledged and valued, as are Tangata Whenua and Tauiwi contributions to the development of the Code. The Bicultural Code of Practice continues to be incorporated in the ANZASW Code of Ethics in recognition of the Treaty relationship.

The 1993 Code became the seminal referent for the work of the Ethics Committee as it began to accept and process complaints of ethical breaches made against ANZASW members. A second major role of the Ethics Committee was to act as the guardian of the Code of Ethics. Included in its terms of reference was the mandate to periodically review and recommend revisions to the Code. Work was begun on a review in 2003 and carried forward into 2004, resulting in a revision of Section 1.4 (sexual relationships) and the adoption of a new Section 5 Responsibility in Supervisory Relationships.

Under a new Committee, constituted in 2005 with a smaller membership, a review and revision exercise was approved by the National Executive. In part, this was driven by external imperatives, particularly the decision of the Social Workers Registration Board[2] to include the ANZASW Code of Ethics in its recommended guides to professional conduct.[3] Long-standing Ethics Committee member, Dugald McDonald, who had organised the Sub-committee work on the 2003-4 revision exercise, was again contracted to work for the Committee on this project. Following a consultation round with members in mid-2005, Dugald was contracted for the task of writing up the proposed revisions. He worked for the Ethics Committee on that project with the assistance of co-opted member John Hopkins (author of the 1993 Code) as consultant.

ANZASW would like to especially acknowledge the work of Dr Dugald McDonald who has guided the Association through this major piece of work. In addition to reviewing and updating the language throughout the document he  considered all feedback received to incorporate as much as possible into the final document. ANZASW also sincerely thanks John Hopkins, who has assisted and deputised for Dugald at times throughout the project. A special acknowledgement to John White, Convenor of the ANZASW Ethics Committee at the time of this review, members of the past and present Ethics and Judicial committees, and members of the Tangata Whenua Takawaenga o Aotearoa who have all contributed to the successful outcome of this project. ANZASW acknowledges Ake Associates who have assisted the project by translating the Code into Te Reo Maori.

The kind assistance of the Human Rights Commission, and Sylvia Bell in particular, in preparing the information on Chapter 5 is gratefully acknowledged.

ANZASW also acknowledges the permission of the International Federation of Social Workers to reprint in full the statement that appears as Chapter 4.

To each of these named individuals and the many more un-named that have contributed in various ways to the completion of this project, a very sincere thanks.

In addition to reviewing the Code of Ethics, a revision of the complaints resolution process was undertaken during 2005 – 2007 by a Complaints and Disciplinary Working Party. This working party, following extensive consultation with members of the Association, developed the Mana Enhancing Restorative Resolution principles[4] which underpin the new complaints resolution processes. ANZASW acknowledges the significant contributions of this working party in defining these principles and leading this review.

The revised complaints resolution process was adopted at the ANZASW Annual General Meeting on 14 June 2007 and established two mechanisms for resolving complaints – a facilitated mediation process and/or a judicial hearing process. A paid Complaints Convenor role to manage these processes was also introduced at this time.

[1]     J. G. Luckock (ed) (1964). Report of Inaugural Conference. NZASW, Auckland.

[2]     New Zealand Statutes (2003). Social Workers Registration Act.

[3]     Social Workers Registration Board (2005). Code of conduct for social workers.

[4]     Mana Enhancing Restorative Resolution principle document can be found on the ANZASW website (www.anzasw.org.nz).

Purpose

The primary purpose of this book is the publication of the Association’s Code of Ethics for the guidance of ANZASW members, clients and students. A wider purpose is to draw together statements on the knowledge and values-base of ethical social work in Aotearoa New Zealand, as informed by our unique bi-cultural partnership and by international links.

Organisation

As the table of contents shows, this book is divided into seven chapters, preceded by a foreword. As well as detailing the scope of the book, this introduction also sets out some fundamental assertions on the nature of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand. A definition of social work stands alone as a short Chapter 2. The heart of this book is Chapter 3, the ANZASW Code of Ethics. Chapter 4 is a reprint of the joint document Ethical Social Work, Statement of Principles issued by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). Chapter 5 is a brief commentary and a listing of international and domestic instruments and agencies concerned with human rights and social justice. Complaint procedures in matters of alleged ethical breaches are the topic of Chapter 6. In order to acknowledge the antecedents of this publication, the final chapter gives a chronological account of significant events, resources and people involved in the development of ethical social work in Aotearoa New Zealand from 1964 to the present day.

A dual focus

Social work has grown out of humanitarian, philosophical and religious attempts to find solutions to poverty and injustice. It originated in Europe and North America and was brought to and further developed in Aotearoa New Zealand where it played a significant role in the colonisation process.

During its history, social work has developed a dual focus. Firstly, to enable and empower individuals, families, groups and communities to find their own solutions to the issues and problems that beset them. Secondly to learn from specific instances of need, to inform society at large about the injustices in its midst, and to engage in action to change the structures of society that create and perpetuate injustice. From time to time, social work in practice has concentrated more on one focus than the other, often emphasising the specific at  the  expense  of the  general, and  sometimes imposing  solutions  rather  than enabling and empowering people to take charge of their own lives in the context of their own values and aspirations.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (Inc) (ANZASW) affirms that member social workers are committed to the full and equal realisation of the dual focus of social work.

The core values position

Members are committed to:

  • social service legislation, structures, organisation and social work practice grounded in the Articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi1
  • service for the welfare and self-actualization of their fellow human beings, who are the individuals, families, whänau, hapü, iwi, groups and communities that make up Aotearoa New Zealand society
  • the growth and disciplined use of all forms of knowledge which inform and enable social workers effectively to carry out their role and function
  • the development and just allocation of the resources that enable everyone to achieve their full potential, and to
  • action for social change that is necessary to achieve social

There are local, national and international contexts in which social work operates.

Members have power and authority that derives from their status, role and professional abilities as social workers. They may have additional powers conferred upon them by legislation where the State uses social work as a means of social control. Social workers work in a variety of private, voluntary or statutory agencies that may have more or less explicit social control functions. They often work within the context of the apparent ambiguity of client empowerment and social control.

ANZASW recognises that it is neither just nor equitable to attempt to impose a set of values on all groups that live in Aotearoa New Zealand. The social work task is to enable and empower people to take charge of their own lives in the context of their own values and aspirations where that does no harm to others. Social workers respect the worth and dignity of each person and group, and acknowledge their age, beliefs, culture, gender, marital, legal or family status, intellectual, psychological and physical abilities, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social and economic status.

The international context

In addition to celebrating our unique society, we also look outwards to the world-wide community of social work. ANZASW is a member association of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and as such it is bound by the IFSW commentary on Ethical Social Work, Statement of Principles which appears as Chapter 4 of this book.2 Earlier, the IFSW Declaration of Ethical Principles (1990) was the starting point for developing our first Code of Ethics (1993). Today, our Code seeks to fulfil the joint IFSW and IASSW aim:

. . .to encourage social workers across the world to reflect on the challenges and dilemmas that face them and make ethically informed decisions about how to act in each particular case (2004).

In the Preface to the IFSW statement (pages 15-16); we note the universal concern with duality of focus, ambiguity of task, conflict of interest and scarcity of resources. Consideration and debate on these issues help to connect us to the international community and to provide templates against which we can measure our own positions. A fully-formulated Code of Ethics is the base line for that task.

About the Code of Ethics

In regard to the Code itself, the purposes are to:

  • provide a definitive, systematic statement on ethical social work
  • offer guidance on the relationship between Tangata Whenua and Tauiwi in social work practice in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • give benchmarks  for  the  protection  of  clients  and  against  potentially  unethical behaviours
  • inspire professional behaviour which reflects the core values and the integrity of social work practice
  • promote a standard of professional behaviour amongst members of ANZASW which maintains and enhances its aims and objectives
  • guide social work students and new entrants to the profession on matters of best ethical practice, and
  • underpin everyday practice and continuing professional development of members.

This [2007] version of the Code retains the basic structure and much of the content of the previous version. It differs now, however, in the incorporation of a new first section based on the Association’s Bi-cultural Code of Practice. Other edited items from that code have been incorporated into relevant sections of this version.

WE ARE PLEASED to provide this new formulation of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.

Our Code of Ethics represents our professional identity, our collective aspirations and is a key point of reference for informing our ethical decision making.

The introduction of mandatory registration of social workers means that, within a short time, most members of our Association will be registered and subject to the behavioural and practice standards established by the Social Workers’ Registration Board, in its Code of Conduct.

The Association will no longer be involved in resolving complaints about Social Workers or in any disciplinary processes, other than those that relate to a Social Worker’s membership of the Association, or those unregistered social services personnel who are Associate Members of the Association.

Our previous Code of Ethics, of necessity, combined an ethical framework and conduct standards as a means of assessing complaints about the practice or behaviour of a Member. We can now assert ethical aspirations alone. The Code of Ethics, in its entirety, is the way we envisage social work in Aotearoa New Zealand now and into the future.

Apart from mandatory registration, other drivers giving impetus to this work are:

  • Maintaining an ethical framework is a primary function of any professional body.
  • Our membership of the International Federation of Social Workers brings with it a requirement for the Association to align the Code of Ethics with the IFSW Statement of Ethical Principles;

A number of National Codes were examined in relation to how our Code of Ethics might be organised and presented.  We have adopted the Canadian framework for the drafting of the new Code. We are attracted to a framework based around description of core values underpinning social work and the ethical principles that derive from these.