The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) celebrates World Social Work Day 2018.
Today we are mindful of all of the work our colleagues internationally do, often in difficult circumstances, across the globe. We think particularly of our colleagues in the developing world, who are under-resourced and yet doing their best to help clients affected by trauma, grievous rights abuses and war.
In keeping with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)’s theme for this year’s celebrations we also recognise those social workers who are fighting for the environment or are on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
Global warming represents perhaps the biggest existential crisis the human race has faced since the threat of nuclear exchange during the cold war. It is an issue that is inextricably linked to social justice and human rights. The worst effects of climate change have been caused by the rapacious greed of powerful corporations and will disproportionately impact people in low-income countries as well as the most disadvantaged in richer nations. Moreover, those countries that are likely to be worst-hit are those that have done least to contribute to the problem.
Social workers will be dealing with the wreckage wrought by climate change in coming decades. It is predicted that it will bring about massive displacement, threaten countless jobs and risk the physical and mental health of millions of people. ANZASW believes that it is imperative for Aotearoa New Zealand to invest in programmes that prepare for the coming crisis and that the government does everything possible to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
ANZASW strongly supports all efforts to reduce the damage to environment within Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally. We commend the Prime Minister’s statements on the importance of fighting climate change and urge her to take action on deep sea oil exploration which threatens to add significantly to the country’s carbon footprint.
The association also wishes to raise awareness of a profound threat to the social work community in Aotearoa New Zealand, one that is the most consequential in decades.
The Social Worker Registration Legislation Bill is currently sitting before the Social Services Select Committee. If the bill remains at it is it will mean that up to half of the currently registered social workers and practitioners with a social work qualification in roles not described as social worker will not be required to register.
This is because the bill only requires those that are called social workers by their employers to register. ANZASW has identified over 110 roles in which people are working as social workers will not be required to register.
Registration is an essential part of the profession: it maintains standards and makes sure that clients can be protected from rogue practitioners. The public need to know that they are working with qualified and trustworthy people especially because social workers often assist clients who are profoundly vulnerable.
Along with other leading organisations associated with the profession, we have called on the Select Committee to consider adopting a scope of practice approach to registration as opposed to one in based on role title alone.
The term scope of practice refers to an overarching description of what a profession encompasses; if this model were adopted it would mean that all social workers would be required to register, instead of the decision being left up to the whims of employers.
Our position on the scope of practice model is echoed in almost 80% of the submissions that Select Committee has received.
A scope of practice approach is clearly in the best interests of the profession and we ask our membership to be vocal in calling for an amendment to the bill that includes this change.
Amending the bill is essential to the sustainability of the profession; in the absence of universal accountability, social work risks losing the confidence of the public.
Despite the challenges that our profession and environment face at the current time, ANZASW also celebrates the unsung heroes who are everyday contributing to the fight for social and environmental justice both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and across the globe.
We look forward to a future where the worst effects of climate change are mitigated and the social work community is fully regulated in the best interests of the profession.