Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill - Second Reading, Carmel Sepuloni

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill - Second Reading, Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki

Response to the proposed Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill

The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill passes Second Reading

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The Social Work Alliance is delighted that the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill passed Second Reading in Parliament last night.

It was very affirming to watch Minister Sepuloni speaking last night. The Minister and her colleagues have inspired real sense of achievement for the future of the social work profession.  The Alliance appreciated the universal acknowledgment of the great and challenging work that social workers do in our communities.

The Committee of the Whole of House will debate the Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) tonight. The SOP proposes significant changes to the Bill and most importantly introduces a form of registration based on scopes of practice.

The Social Work Alliance made up of representatives from, professional associations, the statutory regulator, employers, educators and the union, were united in their in opposition to the requirement that only social workers in positions described using the words “social worker” would be required to register. The Alliance estimated that approximately half of the social work workforce would not be required to register if this position was maintained. The Alliance was clear that social work should be defined by what social workers do, rather than what they are called by their employers.

This clearly would not achieve the aim of the Bill which was to “increase the professionalism of the social work profession and ensure the public is protected from harm”. Social workers who are not registered would not be able to be held to account for their practice by the Social Workers Registration Board.

The Alliance developed a positive relationship with officials from both the Ministers Office and Ministry of Social Development to negotiate changes to the Bill. The outcome of these negotiations is the SOP that is being debated today. The Alliance fully endorses the SOP which includes protection of the title of social worker and registration to practice within a scope of practice.

The scope of practice approach to mandatory registration of social workers makes it clear for all stakeholders, practitioners, employers, people using services and the general public, about who is and is not entitled to practice as a social worker. This means that New Zealanders can be assured that practicing social workers, regardless of their title will be qualified, competent and accountable for their practice.

The Alliance looks forward to the SOP being incorporated into the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill and passing into law. The profession of social work will finally have the recognition and status it fully deserves.

The journey for social work registration commenced in 1964 when the New Zealand Association of Social Workers was established. The first milestone to achieving this was voluntary registration of Social Workers provided by the Social Workers Registration Act 2003.  With over 7,000 social workers already registered it is clear that the profession recognises the value and benefits of registration in a voluntary regime. The Alliance now looks forward to the final stage, the SOP being adopted and the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill passing Third Reading. This will be a momentous occasion for the profession and those who use social work services.




Shannon Pakura                                    Lucy Sandford-Reed

ANZASW Board Member                         CE

027 631 2655                                        027 349 0190

ANZASW Further Statement on SOP 11 February 2019

The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Supplementary Order Paper

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The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament 9 August 2017 and passed First Reading 17 August 2017.

There were a number of issues with the Bill, the most significant being that practicing as a social worker or being willing to practice as a social worker was defined as being “employed or engaged by another person in a position that is described using the words social worker”.

The ANZASW database has 110 role titles occupied by qualified and registered social workers that are not described using the words social worker. Almost half of the members are working in these roles. Under the Bill as written, these people would not be deemed to be social workers and would therefore not have to be registered. It is appropriate to note that people practicing social work who are not registered fall outside the remit of SWRB. This means that these practitioners are not externally regulated, and nor can they be held to account for their practice.

Effectively the Bill handed the employers the responsibility for determining who was, and who was not a social worker. After First Reading members were frequently calling ANZASW to say that their position had been restructured, the work remained the same, the people using the service remained the same, but the role was no longer called ‘social worker’ and payment of registration / Annual Practicing Certificates, professional development and supervision was removed from individual employment agreements.

ANZASW made a detailed submission to the Social Services and Community Select Committee following extensive consultation with members. You can read the submission here.

Following the Social Services and Community Select Committee hearings the Bill included another worrying amendment – that a person was not practicing as a social worker if social work was one of the suite of qualifications required for the role and that person did not hold themselves out to be a social worker.

It should be noted that over 70% of the submissions to the Social Services and Community Select Committee were from the social work profession; those submissions “expressed a desire for the inclusion of scopes of practice as a means for setting the parameters of social work, and potentially helping to better define social work. Many of those submissions also promoted the use of text from the HPCA Act as a model for the operation of any proposed scopes”[1].

ANZASW along with Social Work Alliance developed an effective relationship with officials in MSD to develop a SOP to create a Bill that was fit for purpose. The Social Work Alliance represents a wide group including the regulator, the professional bodies, educators, employers, the union, health social workers and large employers of social workers.

In the context of both the overwhelming support for a scope of practice approach to registration in Select Committee submissions and the feedback received by the Alliance members from their constituents, the Alliance advocated for and successfully worked alongside with MSD to develop a scope of practice approach to registration.

The Social Workers Registration Board produced a Social Work – General Scope of Practice in July 2017. (see  It is expected that this scope will be part of the discussions with the profession about a future scope during the two-year transition to mandatory registration. The Bill clearly requires SWRB to consult with social workers, employers of social workers and others affected by the proposed scope including the professional associations and educators.

For practitioners the scope of practice provides a mechanism to limit the ability of employers to hire people with social work qualifications but describe the role as something else in order to avoid costs associated with registration and as a means of avoiding a professional wage.

ANZASW welcomes the Supplementary Order Paper and the positive changes if adopted that it will make for the profession.


Shannon Pakura             |   Lucy Sandford-Reed

ANZASW Board member |   CE.

027 631 2655                |   027 349 0190

[1] Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill: Departmental Report 4th April 2018.

Scopes of Practice: An Opportunity for Ownership - by Amy Ross

Posted on 

Amy Ross writes a response to John Darroch’s article   “New supplementary order paper fundamentally changes social work registration bill – and should not proceed”.

Any registration of any profession by the state carries risk. The state has an appalling history of allowing atrocities to be undertaken by ‘officials’ and ‘professionals’ with the backing of the law. Therefore, registration for social work should, of course, be undertaken with vigilance and we need to ensure that implementing any legislation is done by us and does not erode the core principles of social work or allow the state to define our theoretical or ethical basis.

The first iteration of the Social Work Registration Bill tabled as a last act by Anne Tolley and the National Government posed enormous challenges to the future of our profession. The Social Work Community swung into action. There was a huge number of submissions (see the PSA one here) and an open letter petition that caught the attention of the new Minister Carmel Sepuluoni.

There were two core issues for the Social Workers Action Network (as articulated in more detail in our submission). One was the circular and meaningless definition of social work the original bill provided which created ability for employers to define social work themselves. The PSA and ANZASW both received many calls from employees who had already had their job title changed by their employer to remove the title ‘social work’ in anticipation of being able to have their social work employees do the same job without calling them social workers; or paying or recognising them as such.

The problematic reporting of misconduct to the board was another key issue for the PSA. The way it was worded created a risk that more organisations would use the Social Work Registration Board as a defacto HR department, calling into question the future security of basic employment rights for social workers in the workplace.

The PSA joined the voices of our members with many other social work organisations in the Social Work Alliance, including ANZASW, The Tangata Whenua Social Work Association, The Council of Social Work Educators; DHB social work leads and the Social Service Provider Association (amongst many others) to influence change. It was an almost unprecedented cooperation between social work advocates and community leaders and we were able to influence a number of positive changes to this dangerous bill in the form of a supplementary order paper (SOP)

John Darroch’s article calling out this SOP as making things worse and arguing for the bill to go through to vote in its original form is disappointing after such a widespread, community-led response. The SOP is certainly not perfect (no legislation I have ever seen is) but if the bill was to go to vote in its original form this would undo significant cross-sector work. The early National Party bill was full of attacks on the profession and also technical problems, of which I have only highlighted two.

The concern expressed in the aforementioned article about scopes of practice is valid in that it is true we don’t know what will be in them yet as they are not in the legislation. This is purposeful as we don’t actually want them to be in legislation where they would be unable to be changed or influenced by our community as we develop our own understanding of practice. We don’t want to have to go cap in hand to the Government of the day to change and develop social work practice.

However, it is inaccurate to say that the scopes will be written without the community or by the board alone. The bill requires involvement from stakeholders in the development of any scopes of practice. The SWRB is just the coordinating body which holds the pen. Social workers must claim this opportunity and be involved in every debate, every nuance of the scope discussion. I know that when the SWRB put out their first iteration of a general scope of practice PSA members provided scathing feedback and as a result of this feedback, (amongst other community feedback) it was dramatically changed. This process could be a thousand time more robust if we seize the chance and get involved. The risk of the scopes not reflecting reality can only come to pass if we as a community do not stand up and make sure that they do. The debate about how many there ultimately are is still one we have a chance to have robustly as a community.

It is also not accurate to say that scopes of practice will necessarily mean that people will have to undertake expensive and inaccessible postgraduate qualifications as a matter of course or that they must register multiple times in complex siloed systems. The course of the scopes of practice is likely to be the same as the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act upon which it was based. This works effectively for many professions that social workers regularly intersect with.[1]  The core general scope of practice that defines core competencies, responsibilities and qualifications for social work will be critical. This must in my view be based on our strong core ethics and values as is the International Definition of Social Work. Having a strong core scope of practice will prevent employers from cherry picking what they call social work or employing social workers to do social work in jobs that simply are not named as such. It removes the ability for them to say social work is “vague” or argue that because the words ‘social work’ are not used that it is therefore not a social work job.

When it comes to specific scopes of practice for a specific area, (such as those in health) the purpose is not to create a whole lot of bureaucratic obstacles and multiple points of registration. Certainly, none of the many social work organisations pushing for change would ever have argued for that. A scope of practice does not necessarily make a task or responsibility exclusively yours nor does it have to be a specific list of restricted tasks. Just as in a health setting where scopes overlap all the time (for example a Nurse Practitioner and a Doctor in their ability to prescribe medication or Occupation Therapists and Nurses in their ability to assess) the same will be true for different areas of practice in social work. All social workers must engage with a person holistically as that is a core element of our praxis.

Different scopes of practice can essentially be defined as having two clear purposes:

  • Articulating the competencies and responsibilities of social work in a particular field to help delineate and protect the social work role, something we have already seen under attack with the rise of “social work assistant roles” or “case workers” etc which can act in effect as unqualified, unsupervised, low paid workers doing a social work role. We heard a lot throughout the process of fighting the original bill that social work is difficult to define (Cabinet paper, Regulatory Impact statement, select committee report, MSD advice to select committee). This becomes problematic in multi-disciplinary environments where social work ends up with the “everything else that nobody else wants” or so poorly understood that the real value social workers bring is ignored or distorted.
  • Allowing different areas of the social work community to build on the general scope of practice to refine and add to the things important for their sector. NGO social workers don’t want Oranga Tamariki to define social work for their sector, Health doesn’t want to be defined by NGOs and so on. The ability to develop (over time) specific scopes of practice should absolutely be monitored but can also be an opportunity for us to get some real control back and ensure social work doesn’t become simply ‘child protection’ as it is often seen. There is absolutely no reason that a Kaupapa Māori scope could not be created which could challenge many conventional notions of qualifications and practice for example. We will need to be vigilant against any creation of hierarchies, deliberate or inadvertent, through this process but again does offer an opportunity to allow each field of practice to “come out into the sunlight” so to speak.

I hold no illusions about not having to fight to prevent the cult of managerialism and neoliberalism creeping into the wording of scopes of practice or about the need to fight against the reality of austerity cutting our ability to practice or resource ongoing learning deeply. However, the coherent community organisation around this bill shows me that we are ready to take on the task of being involved in any scope development and make it truly our own. It will not be without challenge. But implementation of any registration would pose some challenges, particularly in a neoliberal environment. This bill is an opportunity as I see it, an opportunity which will be well and truly gone if the bill were to proceed in its original form, leaving us dependent on the goodwill of employers to retain any social work jobs.

[1] Indeed during this process the HCPA Act was getting reviewed and MSD officials were able to have conversations to understand the learnings of this review so they could be included in any replication of the HCPA process

Supplementary Order Paper 19 December 2018

Minister Sepuloni has announced the release of the SWRL Bill SOP (19 December 2018). It is publicly available on the MSD website at:  

The Bill is waiting for its Second Reading in Parliament.

Following the Second Reading, the Minister for Social Development intends to propose the Supplementary Order Paper during the Committee of the Whole House discussion on the SWRL Bill. This will happen in early 2019.

ANZASW Response to SOP 19 December 2018

Email from ANZASW CE, Lucy Sandford-Reed 19 Dec 2018

I am delighted to be able to advise you that the Social Workers Registration Legislation Supplementary Order Paper, Common Questions and Answers about the SWRL Bill and Minister Sepuloni’s press release are now available at:

While it is disappointing that the Bill did not get to Second Reading before Parliament rose for the holidays, the Bill is likely to complete Second and Third Reading and Royal Assent in the sitting sessions 12 – 21 February and / or 12 – 21 March 2019.

The Transitions timeframes:

  •  Registration will be mandatory for all social workers 2 years after the date the amended Act receives Royal Assent
  •  Section 13 (The Board may recognise practical experience) will be repealed 5 years after the date the Act receives Royal Assent
  •  The reduction to the SWRB Board from 10 members to 7 takes place 3 months after the Act receives Royal Assent.

Key aspects that are now included in the Bill:

Protection of the title “social Worker”


Scope/s of Practice & Qualifications

  • SWRB determines Scopes of Practice and must consult with stakeholders
  • Scope of Practice will be the basis of registration – scopes to be set by SWRB in consultation with the sector
  • Scopes of practice must be endorsed on an individual’s APC
  • SWRB must prescribe qualifications for each scope of practice and must consult with stakeholders

Competence and Recertification

  • NZ graduates will not be required to complete a competence assessment unless doubts have been raised about their competence to practice – effective the day after the Act receives Royal assent.
  • The requirement to recertify every 5 years is repealed – effective the day after the Act receives Royal assent.
  • No change to the competence requirements for overseas trained social workers

Professional Development

  • Professional development and professional supervision can be adopted as conditions for issuing an APC as they are now
  • SWRB to recognise ways of undertaking CPD
  • SWRB may set a fee to recognise CPD but may not set the fee for undertaking a CPD event

Mandatory reporting requirements:

  • The employer must report if they believe the SWer is not competent only after taking steps to provide assistance to improve competence, includes reporting if a SWer resigns or is dismissed due to lack of competence
  • Employer to report if they believe a SWer has engaged in serious misconduct
  • Employer must report if they believe that a SWer may be unable to satisfactorily perform the function required to practice social work because of a physical or mental condition
  • A social worker must report of they believe that a SWer may be unable to satisfactorily perform the function required to practice social work because of a physical or mental condition
  • A person may report if they believe SWer may be unable to satisfactorily perform the function required to practice social work

It is anticipated that a Policy Statement will clarify that the ability to practice and study a first recognised social work qualification concurrently will no longer be an option.

You can read the Social Work General Scope of Practice developed by SWRB July 2017 here

The Clause “Board to determine scope of practice for social work profession” comes into effect that day after the Act receives Royal Assent. This provision enables SWRB to further develop the Social Work General Scope of Practice and develop any other scopes prior to registration becoming mandatory for all social workers (2 years after the date the Act receives Royal Assent).

Unfortunately, members with a recertification falling due prior to the end of March are advised to be prepared to have to complete recertification.

The Policy on Professional Developments has not yet been developed. We however advise members to maintain their CPD Logs in line with the statutory declaration signed when your APC was renewed “I have undertaken / will undertake a range of professional development activities totalling a minimum of 20 hours in each year and have / will evidence for this in my CPD Log”.

The Online Members CPD Log can be accessed from

As the Log is member only you will need a login. If you haven’t already you need to sign up here>>. For those yet to do this and are planning to get their Log up to date over the holidays we recommend you do this, this week as it needs to be approved by us here at the ANZASW Office. The Office wil be closed from 4.30 pm 21 December, reopening 8.00 am Monday 7 January 2019.

   Social Workers need to be Registered like Doctors and Nurses, Association says (Stuff 27 April 2018)

   Social Work Bill “Nonsense” (FutureLearning 24 April  2018)

   Social Workers Fear new Bill    (Māori Television 24 April 2018)

   Social Workers call for Govt to scrap Registration Bill (Radio NZ 24 April 2018)

   Social Work in New Zealand Under Attack (IFSW 24 April 2018)

   Bill Poses threat to Social Workers (NZ Herald 23 April 2018)

   ANZASW Response to Report on Registration Legislation Bill (SCOOP 19 April 2018)

   Social Workers Fear New Bill will Remove Protections (Radio NZ 28 February 2018)

pdficon_small   2018 ANZASW Submission to Select Committee SWRL Bill Final

   New Zealand Parliament>Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill>>

This bill is an omnibus bill introduced under Standing Order 263(a). The objective of this bill is to increase the professionalism of the social work profession by increasing coverage of the regulatory regime; ensuring social workers are competent and fit to practise; and increasing the effectiveness and transparency of the way the Act works.

pdficon_small   Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill


The Social Services Select Committee that will be considering the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill is made up of:

Jan Logie, Greens; List; Chair
Priyanca Radhakrishnan; Labour; List; Deputy Chair
Darroch Ball; NZ First; List 
Simeon Brown; National; Pakuranga
Kris Faafoi; Labour; Mana
Alfred Ngaro; National; List
Greg O’Connor; Labour; Ohariu
Louise Upston; National; Taupo
Michael Woodhouse; National; List

Summary of the Key Issues

  • It provides protection of the title of “Social Worker”
  • Initial competence assessments will only be required if there are doubts about the applicant’s competence to practice social work
  • Social Workers will not be required to complete five yearly recertification assessments
  • Professional development will become the mechanism for developing and maintaining competence

Registration will be ONLY mandatory for people:

  • Whose job description and or employment contract explicitly describes the role as “Social Worker”
  • Who call themselves a “Social Worker”
  • Who undertake ‘restricted tasks’ ie When an Act specifies the task must be done by a social worker.

People with a recognised social work qualification who are self-employed or employed in a role with a title that is not “social worker” eg Family Worker, Case Worker, Community Worker who do not claim to be a social worker, whose job description does not include the words ‘Social Worker’ and who do not do ‘restricted tasks’, will not be required to either hold an APC if they are already registered or register as a social worker.

The Cabinet Paper (Paragraph 34 P7) determined that defining social work would be difficult hence limiting registration to roles called “social work”:
“…the boundaries of what is and is not social work are not distinct from many other social service and health sector occupations, so it would be impossible to define social work without affecting a wide range of related occupations, which undertake similar tasks and require similar skills…….. licensed occupations such as real estate agents and teachers can be defined narrowly or by reference to an employer. In the health field, various tasks requiring particular skills can be defined with great precision. None of these approaches are transferable to the social work profession.”

Social work practice is clearly defined in the Global Definition of Social Work developed by IFSW, IASSW and ICSW.

As proposed, mandatory registration protects the title of social work but not the practice of social work.

The employer would have the power to define who is and is not a social worker through job descriptions and or employment contracts. If they decided that what the employee was doing was not ‘social work’ then they do not have to fund APCs, professional supervision or continuing professional development – which might be very tempting for some employers. No other professional regulatory law nationally or internationally gives the employer the power to determine whether or not their employee is practicing their profession.

People without social work qualifications could be employed in roles traditionally be considered a social work role and would not require registration. This is inconsistent with the Cabinet Paper statement (Paragraph 23 p 4)
“Given that the existing system does not fully cover the social work profession, legislative reform offers an opportunity to clearly articulate changes needed to increase professionalism of the workforce, ensure competence of social workers, and improve protections for vulnerable clients from inappropriate and potentially harmful social work practice.”

ANZASW will address the concerns in the Select Committee submission, and in particular, registration of title only and the ability to enable employers to define whether or not a role is a social work role. Your participation is encouraged as we work to protect the profession of social work.

Member opinions are invited & can be posted on or emailed to

Relevant Documents/Links