To keep NGO Services Open, Close the Pay-Gap

Media Release: The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)

21 October 2020

ANZASW, Aotearoa New Zealand’s professional social work body, is calling on the government to prioritise fair pay and funding for social workers in the community sector to avert crisis, cuts and closures.
The underfunding of a range of essential social work services in communities across the country has long made it challenging to attract and retain staff, keep programmes running and to provide the best support to the public.
Despite this, social work professionals in the sector have continued to walk with service users, supporting them to empower themselves to change their lives in countless ways.
However, as reported by Radio New Zealand on Friday, the pressure for many community / NGO social work agencies is reaching breaking point, raising the question of whether some community operations will be able to keep running. At least one agency is unable to hire much-needed staff because they cannot pay them appropriately.
The pay gap between social work roles in state agencies, particularly Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, and non-governmental organisations, is at the heart of the issue. While OT social workers successfully partnered with unions to achieve a pay equity settlement that has seen their wages rise further, the community sector has not yet seen a comparable lift in incomes.
According to the Radio New Zealand report, the average annual pay differential between Oranga Tamariki social workers and their NGO counterparts now stand at $27,000 per annum.
An independent study commissioned by Social Services Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) last year found that the government funds social service providers for less than two thirds of the actual costs of delivering their programmes.
NGO and community social workers often work in partnership with statutory social workers to resolve complex and challenging cases. Social workers across Aotearoa deserve appropriate pay for the work that they do.
As we have argued before, the only way the shortfall can be filled is for the government to step up, provide reliable funding streams for vital services and close the pay gap for the professionals that work in them.
We live in a time of economic good health; now is the moment for the government to secure the future of community social work.