ANZASW Response to the Social Services Select Committee’s Report on the Social Work Registration Legislation Bill:
The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) is dismayed that the Social Services Select Committee have chosen to ignore calls to make appropriate changes to the Social Work Registration Legislation Bill.
The section requires only those people employed in positions described using the words ‘social worker’ or “social work” to be registered, a state of affairs which means that employers get to determine which social workers are to be held professionally accountable for their work or not.
Over 50% of ANZASW members with a social work qualification are employed in roles not described as social worker or social work. Many of these positions are funded by MSD, Oranga Tamariki Ministry of Health and District Health Boards; a fact that clearly indicates that people accessing these social work services are at a vulnerable point in their lives.
A majority of submissions to the Select Committee called for section 6AAB of the bill to be amended.
More than 80% of submissions to the select committee called on them to replace this role title approach to registration with one based on a scope of practice model that would oblige all those who are practising social work in deed, not title, to register.
The decision to ignore these submissions represents perhaps the most damaging assault on the social work profession in decades. It is all the more galling because the Select Committee has chosen to disregard the views of a majority of voices from the sector itself, while having no representation from the sector within the Committee.
It is totally unacceptable that the Select Committee profess to know more about what the Sector needs than professionals in the Sector themselves.
As a result of the Select Committee’s decision, the bill singularly fails to protect the public from the threat of dangerous or incompetent social work practice, despite the stated claim in the bill that its core purpose is to do just this.
Furthermore, by effectively leaving a large number of social workers unregulated, this bill ignores the problems posed by the power dynamics between practitioners and people using social work services. People using social work services are often extremely vulnerable people who need to know that those assisting them are fully accountable for their practice. By depriving service users of this assurance, they are placed in a position of disempowerment in relation to their caregivers.
This state of affairs risks a crisis of public confidence in the profession, which is already burdened with heavy case loads and inadequate funding. The effect on morale is also likely to be highly damaging.
The aspiration of Social Workers is to be recognised and valued for the work they do. By ignoring calls for a scope of practice approach to registration, the Select Committee is also ignoring the express wishes of the profession and many of the organisations that employ social workers.
It is totally unacceptable that the Select Committee has chosen to effectively single out social work as a profession that does not require universal mandatory registration, unlike doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and teachers, all of which have a defined scope of practice which guides the way these professions are regulated. This inconsistency is an affront to social work.
The Select Committee’s finding, as stated in its report, that “defining “social work” in a scope of practice would be difficult” is hard to take seriously. A global definition of social work, adopted in 2014, was developed by the global social work community. The Social Work Registration Board have produced a “Social Work – General Scope of Practice and a Definition of the Practice of Social Work. These documents were developed following consultation with the Sector in anticipation of mandatory registration of all social workers not just those employed in roles described using the words social worker or social work.
ANZASW is extremely concerned at the long-term damage the Select Committee’s decision will have across the profession and for people using social work services.
Given the inadequacy of the bill in its current form the
Association feels it has no choice but to call on Members of
Parliament to vote down the legislation on the basis that
the existing Social Workers Registration Act 2003 provides
better protection for service users than what is being
proposed under the current bill.