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Social Workers Registration Board Welcomes White Paper

Media Statement:

Social Workers Registration Board Welcomes Release of White Paper for Vulnerable Children

11 October 2012

Ms Toni Hocquard, Chairperson of the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) welcomes the release today of the White Paper on Vulnerable Children by the Minister for Social Development, Hon. Paula Bennett.

The SWRB has as its main purpose the protection of the public and is especially concerned about vulnerable children and whanau. Ms Hocquard acknowledges the continued support of Minister Bennett and Associate Minister for Social Development, Hon. Chester Borrows in the Board’s efforts to protect New Zealanders who receive social work services. The important outcome is to safeguard vulnerable children and whanau from any harm which may result from poor social work practice.

The SWRB is pleased that the Minister recognises the benefits of registration for social workers and that all social workers will be encouraged to register.

The Board remains committed to working with the Minister to ensure that all social workers, not just those in Child, Youth and Family, are registered in the near future. “Social Workers represent a significant proportion of those frontline professionals working with vulnerable children and whanau but this is compromised when accountability cannot be assured” said Ms Hocquard.

Social Workers in the health sector are involved in care and protection of our vulnerable children and the Board is pleased to note that the majority of social workers employed by the District Health Boards are registered. It is the Board’s view that a fully registered health social work workforce is also a priority.

The Board will continue to work with the Minister to address the cost implications of registration for the non-government sector and believes that these costs constraints can be alleviated.

Over 3,600 social workers have been supported by their employers to register to date and the number of new registrations has increased by 30% on average over the last three years. These Registered Social Workers however are carrying the cost of a registration system for the entire profession. Over 2000 Registered Social Workers are employed in the state sector across Child, Youth and Family and the District Health Boards with the remaining Registered Social Workers being either self-employed or employed in the non-government sector and education sector.

Mandatory registration of all social workers would reduce the current registration application and maintenance costs to approximately half what they are currently which would free considerable government resources that could be used to support social work registration in the non-government sector said Ms Hocquard.

Social Workers in the non-government sector provide a key component to the success of the implementation of the white paper on vulnerable children. To ensure that the most vulnerable of New Zealand society receive competent and accountable social work services then we need to ensure that those providing these services are Registered and therefore qualified and competent to practise social work, undertake the rigorous SWRB vetting and police checks and ultimately are held accountable for their practise.

Despite the on-going challenges of operating within a voluntary environment, Ms Hocquard said that the Board will continue to focus on the significant gains made over the last 10 years.

The SWRB recently released a report on the issue of mandatory registration of social workers and found that 95% of the responses from social workers and their employers supported the need to transition from the current voluntary registration system to mandatory registration immediately. This included the professional associations, major employers, unions and representative groups.

Independent research conducted on behalf of the Board highlighted the fact that 81% of the population already believe that social workers should be registered and the Board urges users of Social Work services to request a Registered Social Worker. The SWRB notes the positive news that Child, Youth and Family have publically announced that they are working towards a fully registered workforce within 3 years.

Registration to date is enhancing the professionalism of social workers and as stated by a number of influential social work professionals, the actions of the Social Workers Registration Board are saving children’s lives and improving the delivery of social work practise in New Zealand.

End

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