New Zealand Law Society - Committee wants mandatory registration for social workers

Committee wants mandatory registration for social workers

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A parliamentary committee wants the government to make it mandatory for social workers to be registered.

The Social Services Committee says: “Mandatory registration provides an assurance of competence, accountability, and fitness to practise. It would help to protect public safety, and it would enhance the professionalism of social workers”.

The committee’s inquiry into the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 also says a full police check, including convictions normally withheld under the clean slate act, discharges without conviction, and family violence reports, should all be obtained.  

The report says: “It would be useful for the board to be informed of convictions normally withheld under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 and family violence reports.

“This would allow it to be properly informed when assessing an applicant’s fitness to practice social work. The information would be helpful because social work roles frequently involve interacting with children and other vulnerable people.”

The Act allows a job candidate to conceal some convictions if certain criteria is met, including that they are older than seven years, and did not result in a prison sentence.

The report also suggests the board review a social worker’s fitness to practice at any time.

It says that, if the review raises any concerns about a social worker’s fitness to practice, it can refuse to issue a practising certificate, or impose conditions on the certificate.

The committee, which is chaired by National’s Alfred Ngaro, says social work registration on the basis of practical experience should be phased out, and recommends changes relating to complaints assessment committees and the tribunal.  

It says there is a need to ensure that cultural competence is a core requirement for social workers, and encourages the board to continue developing its policies and processes in this area to improve current arrangements.

“In our view, this represents moving from a “tick box” exercise to more meaningful assessment.”