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Social Worker Registration

Social workers are essential frontline professionals who are part of the key workforce supporting our communities and improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

On this page, you can find out about what the Government is doing to strengthen the social worker workforce and their contribution as part of health and social services.

Registration of social workers is mandatory from 27 February 2021

Changes to Social Workers Registration Act 2003 mean that all people practising as social workers will need to be registered with the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) from 27 February 2021.

These changes will ensure greater public safety and enhance the professionalism of social workers.

The Board has carried out an extensive information campaign over the two-year transition period to ensure that social workers and social worker employers are aware that registration is mandatory from this date.

Registration formally recognises social work as a valued profession, and ensures that social workers are appropriately qualified, competent, and fit to carry out their work, and receive ongoing professional development.

Mandatory registration will better protect the public by:

  • ensuring that social workers are appropriately qualified to carry out their work
  • requiring continuing professional development and specific competencies
  • having processes in place to address any concerns about a social worker's practice through a complaints and disciplinary process
  • ensuring that social workers who have had their registration cancelled are not able to practise social work again.

In the mandatory environment, the SWRB is urging anyone who is not yet registered to apply and begin the process.

The SWRB website has more information on mandatory registration and about professional standards and responsibilities for social workers and the sector.

The Ministry of Social Development has a role in enforcing compliance with the Act

From 27 February 2021, the Ministry of Social Development will be responsible for ensuring that anyone who should be registered as a social worker has obtained registration or has applied to the SWRB for it. The Ministry encourages every social worker to be registered, and it will work with the SWRB to ensure this happens.

The Ministry has a statutory role to obtain information for investigating and prosecuting people who are alleged to be offending under the Act. This includes somebody presenting themselves as a social worker when they are not registered as one and presenting someone else as a social worker when that person is not registered as one.

If the Ministry becomes aware of any alleged non-compliance with the Act, then they will contact the alleged offender to investigate events and take steps to resolve the situation.

Any non-compliance with the Act can be reported to the Ministry or the SWRB

Anyone can get in touch with the Ministry if they have concerns about a person presenting as a social worker when they are not registered.

If anyone has concerns that somebody is presenting themselves as a social worker or is being presented by others as a social worker, and they are not registered as a social worker, then it is important that the Ministry is notified. Social workers who have not registered have not demonstrated to the SWRB that they are fit to practice, and therefore may pose a risk of harm to the public.

MSD will be following up on every notification received about persons not registered as social workers to ensure that legal requirements are upheld.

Social workers who are eligible to be registered will be supported to comply with legal requirements.

If anyone has concerns about a registered social worker, including but not limited to their competence, their actions, or whether or not they currently hold a practising certificate, then it is important that the SWRB is notified. You can contact them through their website.

You can find out more on the legislative changes progressed through the SWRL Act:

Social worker representative organisations have been involved

The Ministry of Social Development has worked with the Social Work Alliance, a cross-sectoral group of organisations representing the interests of social workers, in the development of the legislative changes.

The Social Work Alliance is convened by the SWRB, and includes:

Many of the legislative changes have come about due to advocacy from the social worker sector.

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