Where to social work in a brave new neoliberal Aotearoa?

Ian Hyslop 

Ian is a lecturer in Social Work in the School of Counselling , Human Services and Social Work  at the University of Auckland. Ian’s professional and research  interests are tied to a concern with the relationship between social work and social justice, locally and globally. He worked for twenty years as a social worker, supervisor, and practice manager in statutory child protection practice in Auckland, New Zealand. He has spent a great deal of time over the last  year thinking, writing and talking about the review of New Zealand’s child welfare services. Like most who practice, teach  and research in child welfare he acknowledges the role of risk identification, assessment, decision making, professional judgment in practice. Continue reading

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Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view

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Barbara Staniforth, Kesley Deane and Liz Beddoe

Barbara, Liz and Kesley are researchers in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland

In a previous article from this research project ‘Public perceptions of social work in New Zealand‘  Barbara Staniforth, Christa Fouche and Liz Beddoe wrote about a telephone survey carried out  in 2013 in which 386 members of the public in Aotearoa New Zealand were asked about their beliefs and impressions about social work and social workers. Study findings demonstrate that members of the public surveyed appeared relatively well informed about what social workers do, and were generally positive in their views.  Snippets of those findings include:

A majority of respondents indicated that they would encourage their children or a close family member to become a social worker. This, despite the fact that they were also aware of the high stress associated with the job, the low pay and the hard work that is required, as well as some uncertainty about what it actually is that social workers do.( Staniforth et al. 2014,p.58)

In a second online survey we asked New Zealand  social workers “How do social workers think that they are perceived by the public of Aotearoa New Zealand?” and a few additional questions. We had 403  responses  from social workers who were members of  the Aotearoa  New Zealand Association of Social Work. We asked them about their perceptions on how  social work and social workers are viewed by the public, using similar questions to the first public survey and a few additional questions, which we will be reporting on soon. These results have been  compared to the  previous telephone survey.

In a new article’ Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view‘  we note that the results demonstrate that the social workers generally had a poorer impression of what the public believed in most areas, compared to what the public had indicated in the prior study.

Social workers in this study sensed that there is stigma associated with social work and that they are not particularly well represented by the media. These results are consistent with many previous studies

Both studies note the  lack of positive messages that the public receive about social work. Both studies reported in this new  article suggest that one of the ways of improving the public perception is for social workers to become better at educating the public about their roles and mission.

We hope you will read both articles- free open access from the links below- and share your ideas about ways social workers can be more visible in the great work they do. Leave us a comment below.


Staniforth, B., Fouche , C. B., & Beddoe , L. (2014). Public perception of social work and social workers in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 26(2/3), 48-60.

Staniforth, B., Deane, K., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Comparing public perceptions of social work and social workers’ expectations of the public view. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(1), 13-24. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss1id112

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Challenges in professional supervision: Current themes and models for practice

Just published with Allyson Davys, our second book on professional supervision.

Book Cover

This is a new book with material we couldn’t cover enough in our first book. Please  click on this link for a video  Q and A  on the book on the JKP website:


Intro: Contemporary themes in professional supervision

Chapter 1: Supervision in context: Surveillance or support? Chapter 2: Starting with who we are: Culture, gender and belief in the supervision encounter. Chapter 3: The education of the reflective supervisor. Chapter 4: Practitioner wellbeing and the role of supervision. Chapter 5: Ethics and supervision.Chapter 6: Managing a supervision practice.

Chapter 7: Group supervision. Chapter 8: Interprofessional supervision. Chapter 9: Supervising for strengths. Chapter 10: Supervision of managers. Chapter 11: From difficult situations to courageous conversations. Chapter 12: Creativity in supervision: keeping supervision exciting and supervisors engaged.

Comments from our very kind reviewers:

“This book is written by the two people who know most about professional supervision: Liz Beddoe and Allyson Davys. What is most exciting is the critical analysis that they bring; they really understand the complexities in practice today, and in exploring the challenges in supervision, they challenge us to raise our game, so that there are better outcomes for those who use our services”. — Professor Viviene Cree, School of Social & Political Science, The University of Edinburgh

“The scope of this text is truly impressive. The authors are unflinching in their critical analysis of the urgent developmental challenges facing supervision in all the health professions today. Their scholarly and up-to-date knowledge of the professional literature and current research in the field, combined with their keen awareness of the hard realities of practice in diverse contexts, makes for invigorating reading”. — Jim Holloway, BACP Senior Accredited Supervisor, partner in Cambridge Supervision Training, co-author of Practical Supervision: How to Become a Supervisor for the Helping Professions

Available here and in Kindle from Amazon

Beddoe , L., & Davys, A. (2016). Challenges in professional supervision: Current themes and models for practice. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Authors of: Davys, A., & Beddoe , L. (2010). Best practice in professional supervision: A guide for the helping professions. London: Jessica Kingsley.



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ANZASW and SWRB, what’s the difference?: A guide for social workers

Liz Beddoe
I often get asked questions about our two national professional bodies in Aotearoa New Zealand. And I often see social workers and social work students struggling to understand the contribution each body makes. So this blog post is an effort to offer clarity. It may not be perfect and I will be hoping that readers’ comments and questions will help me improve it over time.

First of all both bodies have informative websites: the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) and the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) .

I will start with governance and societal ‘location’ as these are the most significant differences. The SWRB is a Crown Entity which means that it works out its plan with the minister responsible and reports annually to parliament via the Social Services Select Committee. ‘The Board’ has positions for 10 members who can be nominated by any parties but the decision about any appointment is made by the minister and ratified by a parliamentary appointments committee. So it can be argued that these are ‘political appointments’ however social workers have been successful in getting good people appointed. The SWRB has an office in Wellington and the operations of the board are overseen by the chief executive.

The ANZASW is a voluntary organisation constituted by becoming an incorporated society. It has a national office also overseen by a chief executive. As such ‘the association’ is a part of civic or civil society handily briefly explained by Darren Lilleker.
So the SWRB is set up by an act of parliament the Social Workers Registration Act 2003. The ANZASW is set up under the rules for incorporated societies with a constitution.

Now for governance. ANZASW is a membership organisation set up in 1964 ( a historical account by Mary Nash is available on the website along with a Digital History project, curated by Neil Ballantyne). The association is defined as a bicultural partnership organisation which aims to reflect ‘the foundational centricity of Te Tiriti O Waitangi in social, spiritual, political, communal, economic and ideological terrains of human relationships and engagement‘. The members decide on a governance board of a minimum of six members – three Tangata Whenua and three Tauiwi. The association must have an annual general meeting where the accounts are provided, along with officeholders’ and the CE’s reports. The association has about 3000 members. It is voluntary and you cannot be compelled to join a voluntary society.

The SWRB is statutory and its only ‘members’ are the ten appointed. The rest of us are ‘registered social workers’ not members. A common error I come across is for people to say they are members or are applying to join the SWRB- that pleasure is only yours if you get the letter of appointment from the minister. Registration of social workers began in 2004 and you can read some background material in Beddoe & Duke 2009.

So what does each professional body do? Well the SWRA charges the SWRB with the following: to set up a system of registration of social workers with the main purpose to protect the safety of members of the public by ensuring social workers are competent to practise. The SWRB sets the criteria for registration of New Zealand and overseas qualified social workers including the recognition of social work qualifications. See ‘A matter of degrees’ for more background. The SWRB also established a Code of Conduct which has recently been updated. The SWRB also has policies and procedures for complaints and discipline and sets up the public register of registered social workers. Also listed roles include promoting high standards of practice, advising and making recommendations to the responsible minister about matters relating to the profession.

The ANZASW has a set of Practice Standards and also offers a competency certification programme which is recognised by the SWRB. The association has its own Code of Ethics and is affiliated to the International Federation of Social Workers. The association publishes electronic newsletters and regular bulletins to members with information about employment opportunities, continuing professional development and conferences. The association is also active in supporting campaigns and writing submissions on public issues and legislation changes which have impact on the families and communities we serve.

The association also publishes a peer reviewed journal, Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, four times a year, edited by an editorial collective. This includes a regular issue of Te Komako – focusing on Tangata Whenua social work; and – from time to time – publishes Tu Mau highlighting issues for Pasifika social work;  these are both unique features of the ANZASW.

Finally, there are two other professional bodies in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Tangata Whenua Social Workers Association and the Council for Social Work Education Aotearoa New Zealand. The latter does not have a website but is a body comprised of representatives of each of the 17 social work education programmes recognised by the SWRB.
Both ANZASW and SWRB bodies have FAQ pages: ANZASW FAQ and SWRB FAQ.

Please leave a comment and tell me if there are any other aspects I should add.

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Informed Outrage: Tackling Shame and Stigma in Poverty Education in Social Work

Liz Beddoe and Emily Keddell

Outrage: ‘An extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation’

(Oxford Dictionaries online)

Resistance is not futile

The journal Ethics and Social Welfare will publish a special issue entitled ‘Engaging with Outrage! Social work, social welfare and social justice’ in June, 2016.  The guest editors are Professor Charlotte Williams (RMIT); Professor Linda Briskman (Swinburne University ) and Associate Professor Donna McAuliffe (Griffith University ) and Associate Board Editor of the Australasian Board of Ethics and Social Welfare.

  The brief for the special issue was as follows:

“The notion of moral ‘outrage’ evokes the responsibility of social work and social welfare practitioners to respond to matters of social injustice. Social work/social welfare practitioners are critically placed as ‘practice ethnographers’ to bear witness to injustices and are morally obligated to speak out, act up and resist. Their practice experiences and case studies demonstrate the ethical terrain they traverse in pushing forward the frontiers of activism and speak to their personal investments. What might this mean for a new politics of social work/social welfare practice? What are the possibilities and potentials for harnessing the politics of moral outrage and what are the risks?

This special issue [will focus] on the nature of such moral engagement and the political and ethical issues it throws up for social work and social welfare practice. The notion of political rebellion has a long tradition in social work/welfare and more recently theorists and researchers have sought to capture the nature of these strategies and actions. Others reject such notions arguing that it overstates the role and remit of social work/welfare practice and is ethically contestable.

Themes of moral distress, moral responsibility, moral practices, ambivalence, ethical champions, activism, sabotage and circumvention are nevertheless appearing in professional circuits and raise complex ethical issues for social work, social welfare and social work publics”.

Emily and Liz have published an article based on these themes as they impact on social work education.

The experience of poverty as shameful is often felt by people living in poverty due to the internalisation of stigmatising neoliberal discourses which construe poverty as the consequence of individual failings of effort, competence or morality. A critical response requires an analysis of poverty as primarily caused by structural factors, as without this critical perspective, social workers can become complicit with a responsibilisation agenda based on stigma. Many social work students were raised in the neoliberal era where the post-war consensus on welfare had diminished and thus may be blind to the assumptions embedded in current discourse about people in poverty. Increasing inequalities in many western countries may mean infrequent contact between people from different class backgrounds and exposure to the realities of poverty.

To address the potential risk of social workers reinforcing poverty stigma we propose in our article that social work education incorporates teaching which explicitly addresses the discrepancies between a structural analysis of poverty and the current dominant discourses.

We argue for the inclusion of such topics as moral panics, surveillance, social abjection and social control which underpin welfare policy. Understanding these concepts equips social work students and practitioners to critique current welfare policies and see beyond the stigmatising language and practices in contemporary welfare politics and systems.

Beddoe, L., & Keddell, E. (2016). Informed outrage: tackling shame and stigma in poverty education in social work. Ethics and Social Welfare, 1-14. doi:10.1080/17496535.2016.1159775

Read  our full article here

PS When free e-prints are gone, if you can’t access via your institution please contact me via ResearchGate 

Emily is a senior lecturer in social work  at the University of Otago and has blogged about Poverty and child abuse: never the twain shall meet?

Liz is an associate professor in social work  at the University of Auckland and has blogged about Feral families, troubled families: The spectre of the underclass in New Zealand

They are both members of the Re-Imagining Social Work Collective – visit here.

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A call for papers for Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work: The renaissance of radical social work? Trans-Tasman perspectives

Social workers on both sides of the Tasman Sea are working hard to address the unrelenting tide of policies that aim to reduce the role of a welfare system  necessary to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all people. Hardly a day goes by without a threat to public health, social housing, income maintenance and  essential social services. Aided by social media connections New Zealand and Australian social workers and researchers are recognising the common battles we face. Its is thus timely to create opportunities for  sharing trans-Tasman  ideas on radical social work and critical social policy perspectives.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work journal is seeking contributions to a special issue on critical and radical perspectives in social work and social policy in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia to be published in 2017. The special issue will be edited by  editorial collective members Liz Beddoe, Neil Ballantyne and  a guest editor Heather Fraser, from Flinders University in South Australia.Heather is the co-author with Nik Taylor of the forthcoming book “Neoliberalization, universities and the public intellectual :Species, gender and class and the production of knowledge” out soon in Palgrave.

In a recent article entitled “Taking a political stance in social work” David McKendrick and Stephen Webb (2014, p.359) wrote:

“There is something deeply experiential about taking a political stance. While we face the difficult challenge of inspiring sympathisers and those already wedded to core progressive values, within social work we face the bigger challenge of convincing the uncommitted – and we assume there are many – that there is something worthwhile to be had in taking a political stance and engaging in a radical project. We are persuaded, often by ourselves, that radical politics is futile. So we tend towards compromise, resignation and indifference. Mainstream liberal social work discourse has a tendency to limit and even dislodge our experience of what is important and urgent. It tries to persuade us that social work is politically neutral. Thus, it can take over our voice and regulate our feelings into ones of apathy or disinterest”.

It is this resigned sense of apathy, and the exhaustion of our engagement in a seemingly never-ending struggle for social justice in our everyday micro practice that the editors hope to address in this special issue.   We will be looking for contributions which address critical perspectives on contemporary practice and policy developments, indigenous social work, post-colonialism, anti-racism, feminism, and progressive social work activism, theory, policy, practice, research and education.

We will also seek or commission book reviews and short topical pieces offering readers’ critical commentaries on published articles, analyses of policy or practice developments, and reports on research-informed practice innovations.

Full articles should be no longer than 6500 words including references and material in tables.  Shorter pieces may focus on recent events or current topics of relevance to the theme and may contribute a unique perspective for practitioners, educators and students. Such shorter submissions should be no longer than 2000 words and be properly referenced.

Submissions will be anonymously reviewed by at least two reviewers.  Reviewers will be asked to offer constructive feedback to authors. The deadline for submission of full papers for this themed issue is 17 December 2016. [NB talk to me if you still have an idea for this issue even though the official deadline is passed].

Submission: Please write to the editors with a brief outline of your intended article for this special issue and we will send you the author guidelines for the preparation of your manuscript.

Read about the scope of the journal here

Contact the editors here: editors@anzasw.nz

McKendrick, D., & Webb, S. A. (2014). Taking a political stance in social work. Critical and Radical Social Work, 2(3), 357-369. doi:10.1332/204986014×14096553584619

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Social Work and Social Media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating Social Workers across Shifting Boundaries of Social Work Identity

Deb Stanfield and Liz Beddoe 


Deb and Liz are members of the @RSW Collective, which publishes a blog  Re-Imagining Social Work , set up to  provide a platform to raise awareness about the threats to humane social work services in New Zealand and to promote discussion, debate and deliberation about progressive alternatives. Deb is a social work lecturer/ researcher and is  currently  a PhD candidate at the University of  Auckland, studying social workers engagement in social media for professional purposes. Liz is a social work academic with research and teaching interests in social work and the media, along with many other professional issues.

Social work activity in social media in Aotearoa New Zealand is growing and it is a very exciting time to be researching in this field.

The uneasy relationship between the social work profession and the media has led to recognition by social work educators of the need to incorporate knowledge of media processes and skills of media engagement into the social work education agenda. In addition, there is a clear link between traditional media and social media in the social work context, and the tensions experienced in the media landscape resulting from the recent move to social networking  are relevant to social work and its role in advocating publicly for the rights and needs of vulnerable people. Neil Ballantyne wrote on this blog in 2013 Reflections on social workers & social media in Aotearoa: Part 1. that there were many potential benefits of professional social media use, including the following:

  • participation in a global community of practice;
  • access to informal learning opportunities;
  • awareness of breaking news affecting the social work profession at home and abroad;
  • access to new research findings, learning resources, and events;
  • a forum for exchanging ideas about innovative practice developments and initiatives.

Our recently published  article ‘Social Work and Social Media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating Social Workers across Shifting Boundaries of Social Work Identity ‘ makes reference to these ideas in the context of  Deb’s  study that seeks information about social workers’ professional use of social media in this Aotearoa New Zealand. One component of Deb’s research is a series of key informant interviews. This part of the research is reported here.  Ideas offered by professional leaders in social work are thematically analysed, and themes discussed in this article relate to the complex personal and professional identities social workers negotiate as social media users.  Deb’s participants made  a strong case for social media education for social workers: ‘they highlight the key relationship between the emotional experience of using social media and crucial need for new knowledge’. One participant summarised the themes well

So it moves from the scary unknown to the known. There may still be scary bits about the known, which is valuable to recognise but while it’s still unknown then people are going to feel less confident around engaging. Becoming informed, becoming aware, and developing a more sophisticated view of social media; it’s not all good and it’s not all bad. (participant #3)

Implications for social work education are offered, including those that relate to professional identity development and the ever-shifting ethical landscape of social media engagement.

Read more in the full text of the article here 

Stanfield, D., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Social work and social media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating social workers across shifting boundaries of social work identity. Social Work Education, 1-13. doi:10.1080/02615479.2016.1154663  [published on early access 11 March 2016]

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I love this project – such a great idea. It offers a different way of thinking about social work and our personal journeys.Please visit 40 Objects and consider adding your own contribution.

social work in 40 objects

    L I Z   B E D D O E

33 Liz Beddoe   33 Kete

The idea of a career in social work had not entered my mind when I finished my sociology degree in my early twenties. I was keen to find a social research job. I was interviewed for a junior research role in a private research company. The owner said my results from their employment questionnaire meant I was too much a soft leftie and would not be of use to his business. Instead I should try social work. A seed was sown. The next job I applied for was to be a social worker in an older adults’ inpatient service. I had worked in a rest home while studying and enjoyed working with our elders. I got the job and loved it. I went on to complete my MA in social work and worked in health social…

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Language and decisions in child welfare – what’s the connection?

Emily Keddell

This blog post is a summary of a recently published article called: Constructing Parental Problems: The Function of Mental Illness Discourses in a Child Welfare Context (Keddell, 2015). The article reports on a sub section of my PhD research into decision-making in an NGO child welfare setting (Keddell, 2013). It is based on a secondary analysis of interviews of eight social worker – parent pairs in cases where there had been serious concerns about children’s care. Children had entered care for at least short-term stays in seven out of these eight cases. In the eighth family situation, while the child had never entered care, the decision was in regards to which parent, if either, the child could live with following separation.


Photo credit UCB Language Centre

Removal decisions relate strongly to the negotiated understandings between social worker and parent, so this article examined the language each person used to explain the problems experienced by the family.

Why focus on language? Based on a social constructionist perspective, this study assumes that language is not simply a reflection of reality. Instead, it begins from the presumption that the kinds of language we choose to describe and explain things creates certain truths about those things that are not self –evident, but are contestable, and reflect the dominant discourses of the specific cultural, historical, policy and knowledge context.

Understanding the variety of possible explanations for family problems in the child welfare context is important, as the way we understand problems to ‘be’  – their nature, causes and consequences – leads directly to decisions about children’s care, as well as impacting on the social worker – client relationship. For example, if I use problem-focussed as opposed to strengths-based language to describe the same family, a very different picture of the family would be conveyed. A parent described as ‘struggling to cope but is reaching out to services, and is highly motivated to access supports’ is very different from ‘an inadequate parent who makes strident and manipulative demands on multiple services’. For the latter, it’s a small step to suggest intervention, and a parent who understands this is how they are perceived is, in turn, unlikely to engage with a worker who holds those views. I’ll bet as you read those descriptions, you also assumed the subject was a woman. Am I right? In child welfare social work, we are so used to the primary focus of intervention being the mother that it has become an assumed reality, and the combination of discourses relating to mothering, coping, and mental illness is a powerful mixture that is seldom examined in day to day practice.

In my research, I tried to explore how social workers and parents negotiated the meanings of the problems leading to concerns about children’s care, particularly when social workers are balancing the dual role of protection of children and empowering of parents, while also attempting to maintain their relationship with the parent. What a tough job! I also tried to remain open-minded about the use of particular discourses, beginning from a tentative belief that many discourses can have both empowering and oppressive consequences, often simultaneously.

Some discourses have got a bad ‘rap’, (particularly those relating to mental illness) but in the microcontexts of practice, they don’t necessarily play out in the ways that Foucault described years ago.

While the ‘psy’ discourses can be oppressive and patronising, a diagnosis of mental illness can also be a relief, a way to provide a pathway to ‘recovery’(Foucault, 1980). With all this in mind, what I found was that ‘mental illness (including substance abuse) and lack of supports’ were pragmatic explanations for prior poor parenting that contained pros and cons from a functional perspective. On the pro side, it allowed both parties to agree to a congruent narrative of ‘it was the mental illness not me’, that enabled a non-accusatory way to recognise harm to children while maintaining a supportive relationship. For example this pair stated that:

Interviewer: So in that case, how would you explain what was causing the family’s problems?

Social Worker Respondent: I think a lot of it was the mother was abused as a child, she was depressed as an adult, and she was depressed around the time of D’s birth, and since he was three and four, and I just think that that affected her ability to relate to D, and I think that he didn’t get his emotional and psychological needs met at that right stage, as a very young child, so he felt quite alienated (Social Worker, Case 5).

Parent Respondent: The decision to put him into full time care was—my depression I was living with got to the extreme where I couldn’t cope, I actually took myself up to the hospital, handed over my car keys … yeah, so for his safety and that…” (Parent, Case 5)

On the con side, the long history of the discourse of mental illness with its tendency to medicalise and individualise social problems did raise its ugly head in some cases. One parent acknowledged she was depressed, but stated the main problem in her view was her abusive and controlling partner, combined with significant poverty (not having enough to eat) not her lack of attention to her mental health. Her social worker, while also acknowledging the partner, placed more responsibility on the parent and her ‘mental illness’ for her situation. In this way, one could argue the ‘psy’ complex described by Foucault was being used to govern the parent’s subjectivities in a negative way, one that subtley imposed an ‘expert’ and individualised view of mental illness, while the client argues for a more relational-contextual explanation of her issues.

One take home message from this research for practice is ‘How do I interpret people’s behaviour? Does my choice of explanatory discourse help me meet my goals of child safety, parent empowerment and relationship maintenance? If not, are there any others that would be more functional? It’s not always possible, of course, but worth trying for (yes, I am an idealist).


Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge, Brighton, The Harvester Press.

Keddell, E. (2015) Constructing parental problems: The function of mental illness discourses in a child welfare context. British Journal of Social Work doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcv096. Accessed here:

Keddell, E. (2013) ‘Beyond care versus control: decision-making discourses and their functions in child protection social work.’, PhD thesis. Sociology, Gender and Social Work, Dunedin, New Zealand, University of Otago.



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