Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children Anne Tolley says the introduction of mandatory registration for social workers will increase their skills and professionalism so they can better support New Zealanders.
“Social workers play a crucial role in supporting our most vulnerable New Zealanders. They are increasingly dealing with children, young people, adults and families with complex high needs,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Mandatory registration will help to ensure that all social workers are well equipped to deal with our most vulnerable New Zealanders, and that they focus more on intervening early and reducing preventable harm.
“As a result of mandatory registration all social workers will have to meet the appropriate standards and undertake on-going professional development as part of renewing their annual practising certificate.
“It will also mean that all social workers are accountable for their practice. There will be processes in place to address any concerns about social work practice and any social workers who have their registration cancelled will not be able to practice again.”
The majority of social workers, almost 6,300, are registered. It is estimated around 2,000 social workers are unregistered - of this group it is expected that nearly 60 per cent (1,200) should be able to register using their qualifications, and another 300 should be able to register using their work experience.
Legislation is expected to be introduced before Parliament rises in August. It will restrict the use of the term social worker to those who have proved they have the required qualifications, skills and experience. There will also be changes to simplify the current registration processes.
The costs of these changes are expected to be modest, and more registrations will mean that the cost per social worker will decrease.
The majority of the changes will be implemented within two years to ensure a smooth transition. This will make it easier for social workers who work for smaller NGOs, and in range of settings including health and education.
This shift in professionalism supports the changes underway by the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. There are a number of initiatives to streamline processes to enable social workers to spend more time with young people.
“We want to ensure that social workers have more direct contact with children and young people. The Ministry will be recruiting an extra 42 social workers as a result,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Reporting processes are being streamlined, and a set of tools and training is being developed to support social workers to more efficiently produce reports for the Family Court.
“A new mobile app for social workers has been developed to help reduce duplication of information. New finance and HR processes for site managers will also enable social workers to make quicker decisions for children and young people.”