Missing piece in social worker registration bill

Social Service Providers Aotearoa has told the social services select committee that some changes are necessary if the Bill on mandatory social worker registration is to achieve its purpose.

SSPA represents community-based organisations providing child and family social services. Social workers make up a significant section of the workforce.

National manager Brenda Pilott says SSPA supports mandatory registration to maintain public accountability and safety and recognise the value of social work as a regulated profession.

“The Bill supports these aims by protecting the title ‘social worker’ so it can only be used by a registered social worker. But it falls down by not defining what social work is,” she says.

“It’s a serious flaw because it leaves it to each individual employer to define a social worker’s scope of practice. This is at odds with a basic purpose of the Bill which is to have a consistent understanding of the profession of social work.”
Brenda Pilott says that without a definition of the scope of practice, an employer can call a social work position something else in order to avoid the compliance costs and processes of registration.

“Social workers are concerned that those who are not registered will face severe disadvantage to their career prospects and earnings potential,” she says.

SSPA will recommend to the select committee that the Social Workers Registration Board be required to have a definition of the scope of practice of social work.

“We will also point out that while mandatory registration is to be welcomed, it will place additional costs on NGOs that are already seriously under-funded. This is an issue the Government must address,” Brenda Pilott adds.

The SSPA submission on social worker registration is here.