Readiness to practice social work in Aotearoa New Zealand: perceptions of students and educators

Liz Beddoe, Kathryn Hay, Jane Maidment, Neil Ballantyne and Shayne Walker

New research article

The readiness to practice of newly qualified social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand is a contested subject. In recent years, criticism by public figures including government ministers and the New Zealand government-appointed Children’s Commissioner have stimulated debate within the profession. Media critique of social work practice has highlighted many of the challenges faced by social workers. Significant policy developments, in particular a substantive government review of child protection services, have also increased the scrutiny of the capabilities of social workers.

A timely 3-year multi-phase project ‘Enhancing readiness to practise’ is the first large study of social work education to be funded in Aotearoa New Zealand. The enhanceR2P research project is a collaboration between social work researchers from the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, the University of Auckland, Massey University, the University of Canterbury, and the University of Otago. Read more about the study here.

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Using Facebook in social work assessment: An unethical practice or an effective tool in child protection?

Tarsem Singh Cooner  and Liz Beddoe 

Social media has redefined how we are able to keep in touch with family and friends, find people and relate to others. Research has shown that social workers have been using social media, both collectively and individually, as a way to ‘collapse borders’ between social workers and service users to gain another view of their lives through monitoring of Facebook pages. While it is known that such practices go on, no research has shown how Facebook is actually used in case work with families and under what circumstances. This short video has been created to stimulate debate about the ethical issues of social media use by social work professionals. The video draws on findings from an ESRC funded research project into child protection processes in England*.

Our presentation draws from an ethnographic study of child protection social work practice in England that involved 15 months of participant observation at two sites. The study observed incidences of Facebook being used by social workers as part of risk assessment and on-going case work with families. Sage and Sage (2016) observe, with reference to assessments, that there is a lack of research around how social networking sites are being used to inform social work practice. On the one hand they can be viewed as an acceptable tool for social workers with concerns about the truthfulness of service-user information. On the other, they are seen as an intrusion across the border into (semi) private spaces. These contentious positions: the surveillance of Facebook and the issues of consent and power underpinning this practice are both worthy of ethical exploration within the profession. Our paper, first given at SWSD 2018 in Dublin, reports how social workers provided researchers with a rationale for their use of Facebook and analyses the ethics of such practice in the context of the specific concerns in the cases and the broader issues of power and human rights.

*The research team: The project is “Organisations, staff support and the dynamics and quality of social work practice: A qualitative longitudinal study of child protection work” funded by Economic and Social Research Council.

Professor Harry Ferguson, University of Birmingham
Dr Tarsem Singh Cooner, University of Birmingham
Associate Professor Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland
Dr Jadwiga Leigh, University of Sheffield
Dr Tom Disney University of Northumbria
Dr Lisa Warwick, University of Birmingham

References in the presentation 

Clinton, B. K., Silverman, B. C., & Brendel, D. H. (2010). Patient-Targeted Googling: The Ethics of Searching Online for Patient Information. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 18(2), 103-112. doi:10.3109/10673221003683861

Kolmes, K., & Taube, D. O. (2014). Seeking and finding our clients on the Internet: Boundary considerations in cyberspace. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(1), 3-10.

Sage, T. E., & Sage, M. (2016). Social media use in child welfare practice. Advances in Social Work, 17(1), 93-112.

Sage, M., Wells, M., Sage, T., & Devlin, M. (2017). Supervisor and policy roles in social media use as a new technology in child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 78, 1-8.

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Research on school based social work in Aotearoa New Zealand- new publications

 Liz Beddoe and Irene de Haan

Over the last two years we have been exploring schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect. In our earlier post we shared our initial findings about school social workers’ experiences.

We were interested in SWiS’s experiences working with teachers and principals in schools around the identification and response to child maltreatment. We also explored with participants their experiences of becoming a school based social worker, the strengths and challenges of the role. We reported some interesting recurring experiences that our participants shared. The major challenge we heard about was the complexity of relationships school social workers need to build and maintain in order to work effectively for children.(see Beddoe, 2017 for more).

We have now published two new articles which are now freely available in open access:

Addressing concerns about child maltreatment in schools: A brief research report on social work involvement in reporting processes

Liz Beddoe, Irene de Haan


INTRODUCTION: School-based social workers (SWiS) in Aotearoa New Zealand work alongside teachers and principals to improve child wellbeing. The SWiS experience in addressing concerns about possible child abuse and neglect (CAN) is under-researched.

METHOD: In the first phase of the project, the authors undertook semi-structured interviews with 20 SWiS to explore their experiences of how school professionals addressed CAN.

FINDINGS: Some considerable variation in making formal notifications of concerns to the statutory agency was found. In some schools SWiS made all the notifications, in others none, and in some schools the process was variable. Stigma associated with child abuse was reported as a factor in attitudes towards reporting. School-based social workers reported the need for better education and policy to guide schools to address CAN.

IMPLICATIONS: More joint education is needed to ensure a common knowledge base and better interprofessional work. There is potential for SWiS to support this work if better resourced.

Read full text here

If you could change two things’: Social workers in schools talk about what could improve schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect

Liz Beddoe, Irene de Haan, Eileen Joy


INTRODUCTION: Given recent legislative changes to the child welfare system in Aotearoa New Zealand, it was deemed timely to examine the challenges faced by school-based social workers and other school professionals in responding to child abuse and neglect (CAN).

METHOD: A qualitative study of school professionals’ responses to CAN included 20 semistructured interviews with school-based social workers. The participants were asked to describe two things that, from their perspective, would improve schools’ responses to CAN. This article reports on this aspect of the study.

FINDINGS: Four main themes were identified in social workers’ responses: the necessity for improved training for teachers on CAN; better support for teachers; a more holistic approach to child wellbeing; and enhanced understanding of child welfare.

IMPLICATIONS: These findings pose challenges to both initial teacher education and crossagency child protection. School social workers use their relationship skills and knowledge to act as bridges between teacher education, school leaders, teachers and the Ministry for Children Oranga Tamariki and believe they can do more.

Read full text here


Beddoe, L., & de Haan, I. (2018). Addressing concerns about child maltreatment in schools: A brief research report on social work involvement in reporting processes. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 58- 64. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id421

Beddoe, L., de Haan, I., & Joy, E. (2018). ‘If you could change two things’: Social workers in schools talk about what could improve schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 45-57. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id420

Beddoe, L. Managing identity in a host setting: School social workers’ strategies for better interprofessional work in New Zealand schools. Qualitative Social Work, 1473325017747961. Read abstract here


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Interprofessional supervision: a matter of difference

A new article by Allyson Davys

With its origins grounded in the apprenticeship tradition it is perhaps not surprising that social work adheres to a model of supervision where both supervisor and supervisee are social workers and where it is common for social workers to be supervised by their line manager. Interprofessional supervision, where the participants do not share the same profession, and which is frequently external to the social worker’s organisation, therefore presents a challenge to traditional social work supervision practice. Continue reading

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Evaluating social work supervision

A new article by Allyson Davys, Janet May, Beverly Burns, Michael O’Connell

The question of whether the practice of professional supervision is effective, and how its effectiveness can be measured, has been debated by both social work and other professions. This study explored how practitioners, supervisors and managers in Aotearoa New Zealand currently evaluate the supervision they receive, provide and/or resource.  The study had an interprofessional focus involving counsellors, mental health nurses, psychologists and social workers. This article focuses on the findings from the social work cohort data. Continue reading

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Critical conversations: Social workers’ perceptions of the use of a closed Facebook group as a participatory professional space.


cloud_shelf_icons_300_nwmDeb Stanfield 

The use of social media in our world today continues to excite and confound us; despite its significant presence in our everyday lives, we are still grappling with its true nature and coming to terms with its power and peculiarities. Social work is poised to develop a unique, critical understanding of social media on multiple levels – our international colleagues are theorising and generating research about how social media is used in practice, for professional development, social action, research and in the delivery of social work education.  Continue reading

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Social workers’ experiences with whistleblowing

Whistleblowing in social work has not received a great deal of attention in practice or research and no Aotearoa New Zealand research was located when Sally Raymond an Aotearoa New Zealand mental  health social worker began her study.  Our recent article reports on her small exploratory qualitative study of whistleblowing that we believe provides a starting point in encouraging dialogue on this important professional concern. Continue reading

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Call for papers: Women in social work

Special issue proposal: Women in social work- practice, policy, education and research

Kia ora, Talofa lava, Kia orana, Mälö e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Bula vinaka, Namaste, Malo ni, Halo ola keta, Mauri, Fakatalofa atu, Kia ora and Warm Pacific Greetings

Stephanie Wahab, Ben Anderson-Nathe and Christina Gringeri write in the introduction to ‘Feminisms in Social Work Research’ (Routledge,2015, p. 1) that “social work as a profession and academic discipline has long concerned itself with women and issues related to women and their social conditions” citing reproductive rights, labour rights, violence and poverty among the areas of concern.  Continue reading

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What’s your agenda? Reflective supervision in community-based child welfare services in Aotearoa

Matt Rankine

A new article by Matt Rankine reports on findings of a qualitative research project exploring supervision in non- statutory child welfare agencies in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Matt notes that the contracting environment  of community-based child welfare services (CCW) in the  managerialist climate of  Aotearoa New Zealand  necessitates constantly renegotiated contractual partnerships, service targeting and measured outcomes. Continue reading

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Harmful supervision

“Supervision is an important component of professional learning, growth, and development in the helping professions. It is at the heart of professional practice on a career-long basis for some professions and a significant element in education and internship for others. Regardless of how long it continues in a professional’s career, it is a practice that is expected to model effective relationship building, the sensitive giving and receiving of feedback, and the careful management of power and difference” (Beddoe, 2017, 88). Continue reading

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