Changes proposed to Social Workers Registration Legislation bill

Image: iStock

In December 2018 Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, announced proposed changes to the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill. 

The proposed changes are outlined in a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP). The SOP and other documents explaining the proposed changes are available on the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) website.

The Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill is an omnibus bill introduced in 2017 under the previous National Government. It proposes amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act 2003. This includes making registration mandatory for social workers, within two years of the changes becoming law.

The latest proposed changes are in response to consultation and the Select Committee's report.

The most significant proposed change introduces the provision for a "scope of practice" for social workers. This allows for a range of different roles to be identified as a social worker, independent of the exact title of role, taking into account the tasks being carried out.

Common questions and answers about the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill provided by MSD note:

"A person is a social worker if they are registered under the Social Workers Registration Act under a scope of practice that specifies the social work services the social worker may do. An individual’s scope of practice sets out a social worker’s area of practice, competencies, responsibilities, necessary qualifications, and any conditions limiting their practice.

A registered social worker may only practise as a social worker if they have a practising certificate.

Whether or not a person will need to be registered as a social worker, or is entitled to be registered, will be determined if:

    • they, or their position description, job title, or someone else (such as their employer) suggests they are practising as a social worker; and/or
    • the qualifications claimed or implied as being needed by a person for their job as part of a profession are the same as required for a practising social worker.

Registration as a social worker does not solely arise from the tasks being performed by a person in a job, but whether they are practising as a social worker. Nor can an employer simply change a job title to avoid someone needing to be registered as a social worker.

As part of implementing the SWRL Bill, the Board [Social Workers Registration Board] will provide guidance that determines what positions, held by a registered social worker, come within the definition of social work and those that don’t."

Other proposed changes outlined in the Beehive press release include:

  • "require employers to report allegations of serious misconduct by social workers
  • promote ongoing professional development by social workers
  • create additional safeguards relating to the power to obtain information about social workers and the offence of impersonating as a social worker
  • provide greater flexibility for the Social Workers Registration Board to respond to situations affecting individual social workers"

The Social Workers Registration Legislation 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 Bill, in early 2019.

Other documents that have been released about the proposed changes and bill include:

  • Timing of commencement of changes to the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 by the Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill
  • Cabinet paper (August 2018) - Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill: Additional policy decisions for inclusion in a Supplementary Order Paper 
  • Cabinet paper (December 2018) - Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill: Supplementary Order Paper approval for release
  • Regulatory Impact Statement - Legislative changes to increase the professionalism of the social work workforce (revised July 2018)  

For these documents, more information and ongoing updates see the Ministry of Social Development webpage on Social Worker Registration.

For background information and previous discussion on mandatory registration, see our previous story Submissions open on mandatory registration of social workers.

Update: The bill has passed its second reading on 12 February 2019, and has been referred to the Committee of the whole house. 

Selected media

Understanding the Implications of the SOP, Guest Post: John Darroch, Reimaging Social Work, 18.02.2019

Social Workers Registration Bill passes Second Reading, Press Release: Social Work Alliance, Scoop, 13.02.2019

Scopes of Practice: A View From Across the Tasman, Guest post: Justin Canty, Reimaging Social Work, 12.02.2019

Scopes of Practice : An Opportunity for Ownership, Guest post: Amy Ross, Reimaging Social Work, 12.02.2019

New Supplementary Order Paper fundamentally changes Social Work Registration Bill – and should not proceed, Guest post: John Darroch, Reimaging Social Work, 10.02.2019

ANZASW statement on amendments to crucial social work bill, Press Release: Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers, Scoop, 19.12.2018