Social work is an integral part of our health and social service sectors. Whether you think of a ward in a hospital, a women’s refuge, a primary health organisation, a school, emergency accommodation, child protection or one of a hundred other settings, we are there.
Our profession brings a unique skill set to the table, synthesising theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. We are a strong and important profession, who play a vital role in supporting families and communities as well as challenging the systemic injustices that generate inequalities. We are worthy of recognition and protection from erosion, undervaluation and manipulation.
Yet the Social Work Registration Bill currently before the house does not recognise the complexity and importance of our work.
The Bill ignores the views of the overwhelming majority of the sector. It conveys a strong message that social work is vague, confusing, unimportant and fundamentally, unskilled.
The Bill does not define or reference a scope of practice for social work. It makes registration virtually meaningless. And it means if your job title includes the words “social work” or “social worker”, you’re covered – and if it doesn’t, you aren’t. And as if that weren’t confusing enough, there are exemptions for some people even if they do have that job title. The end result: the public can’t be sure if the person they’re dealing with is qualified, skilled and accountable.
We reject the idea repeated by the select committee and Ministers that the practice of social work is difficult to define. This work has been done by our international community and by our social work registration board. If anything else is needed we have more than enough skill and knowledge in our community to define and articulate our own work.
It’s laughable to imagine a situation where an employer decides who can call themselves a nurse, or a dentist, or a lawyer. The same should apply for social work. It will create a situation where employers can pay lower wages and cut corners to avoid paying registration and supervision. It will only be a matter of time before this leads to a critical incident within our communities as the quality of practice is diminished in favour of affordability.
This bill is outrageous and shows how far we still have to go in valuing work traditionally seen as “women’s work.” If you think that social work can be done by anyone and is not highly complex, skilled and emotionally demanding work we urge you to go into the field with a social worker.
If you vote this bill through to law, you will cripple our profession. We urge you to urgently redraft the bill taking into account the views of those working in the sector. We are, after all, the experts in our own work.
The Social Work Community of Aotearoa New Zealand and our allies.
Social workers call for govt to scrap registration bill 24 April 2018 https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/355836/social-workers-call-for-govt-to-scrap-registration-bill
Social work bill ‘nonsense’ - Dr Ian Hyslop, University of Auckland 24 April 2018 https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/04/23/106052/social-work-bill-nonsense#
Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_74844/tab/submissionsandadvice