A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the challenges of registration in New Zealand. I decided to take it down recently as the world has changed. And the situation that angered me so much at the time was resolved by some good people being prepared to move forward. But re-reading it got me thinking again about the complex web of social work stakeholders— service users, whanau, social workers, regulators, educators, employers, sector interest groups, policy makers and legislators. In January 2009 I expressed the hope that we would all be working together solving some the challenges to New Zealand social work- like our overworked,often dispirited workforce, our failure to recruit sufficient high quality students, inadequate funding to meet the costs of social work education, the lack of money to support excellent research on service development and social work effectiveness, continuing government inertia on funding professional development for social work in comparison to the resources poured in to the teaching and health professions, the poor understanding the general public has of the role of social work, our almost inaudible voice on public issues……..I note that little progress has been made on many ofthese problems. So this morning I was very sad to read the following article, here’s a section:
Sunday Star Times 21/07/2013
“A man who raped his daughter was able to be employed as a social worker after concealing his conviction. Another man who called disabled people “dumb” and “homo” was also engaged in the sector, while a third worker financially exploited a client and was ordered to pay $100,000 in reparation. All of the so-called “social workers” were unregistered and therefore not vetted by the sector’s professional standards body or able to be investigated and disciplined through its complaints tribunal. They were just three in a long list of unsuitable candidates employed to work with vulnerable clients because there is no law requiring social workers in New Zealand to belong to the Social Worker’s Registration Board. Complaints against unregistered workers have prompted the board and several politicians to call for mandatory registration but the Government says it won’t happen”.
What this tells us is that our very biggest problem is the failure of successive governments to properly invest in New Zealand social work. We still have voluntary registration- which so defies logic! How a government can possibly set up a system to ensure the safety of the public and enhance the professionalism of social workers and then allow half the workforce to be unregistered and most of this group likely to lack professional qualifications? How can the same government faced with shortages of qualified social workers, even to staff its own services, remove the training incentives that allowed single parents to gain professional qualifications, and later remove financial support for graduates undertaking qualifying master’s degrees? The level of spending on professional development for social workers and properly funded research is crippling the development of a professional, research informed social work. Ten years on from SWRA and we still face the same headlines. Where to from here if the government won’t act?