Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children, Anne Tolley has announced the introduction of mandatory registration for social workers.

The Social Workers Registration Act 2003 introduced voluntary registration of social workers, with the intention of increasing the overall number of registered social workers employed across government and NGOs. Today there are around 6,300 registered social workers.

As identified in NZCCSS’ submission to the Social Service Select Committee during the 2016 inquiry into the issue, the registration of social workers (under the Social Workers Registration Act 2004) is generally supported across NZCCSS networks. The key challenge faced by NZCCSS members (and other NGO services) is the cost of registration and where that cost should sit.

The operational reality for our members is one of increased complexity of need, increased demand for services, all in an environment of no funding increases to government contacts over a period of 8 years.  These factors challenge our members’ ability to support registration and professional development.

Moreover, the increased requirement for highly skilled and qualified social work practitioners to undertake increasingly complex cases, is therefore compromised by the challenges of attracting and retaining competent staff when funding levels do not recognise or reflect the real costs of service delivery, ongoing training and development, and membership of professional bodies and in some cases, the salaries NGOs can afford to pay staff.

NZCCSS members support in principal mandatory registration, but agree with National Manager, Social Services Provider Aotearoa, Brenda Pilott, “…We say the costs of attaining and maintaining registration must be factored into contracts with social service providers.

A bill is expected to be introduced before Parliament in August. This legislation will also restrict the use of the term social worker to those with recognized qualifications, skills and experience. A two year transition period is proposed before full implementation.

NZCCSS is currently consulting with members on the human resource implications for skilled staff who do not have approved qualifications, and those whose job description falls outside the definition of social worker. The NZCCSS Secretariat will update members on how this work progresses.