Press Release – Social Workers Registration Board
The Social Workers Registration Board Chairperson, Ms Toni Hocquard, is appalled at the decision to discharge without conviction a woman who left her five children locked in a van in SkyCity’s basement car park, while she and her partner gambled, based on the fact she wanted to become a social worker.
The District Court Judge allowed the discharge after hearing evidence that the woman wanted to study to become a social worker. The Police appealed against that decision to the High Court at Auckland, where the Crown said the District Court judge had made an error of law. Justice Peter Woodhouse however found the District Court judge did not make an error of law and the discharge without conviction was upheld.
Ms Hocquard is concerned that as a result of this District Court Decision being upheld by the High Court that the reputation of the social work profession may have been impacted. Social Worker’s behaviour needs to be above reproach, which is why social work students are screened before entering any SWRB recognised qualification to ensure they meet the criteria for “Fit and Proper”. Every applicant for registration as a social worker is also required to complete a full police check that includes an exemption under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004.
Accountability is paramount to protecting future clients, which includes being accountable for actions prior to entering a programme of study.
“Social workers in New Zealand work with the most vulnerable children in society and both the social work profession and the children they work with deserve more respect from the Courts.” said Ms Hocquard.
Social Worker Registration in New Zealand is currently voluntary and the Social Workers Registration Board has called for registration to become mandatory in the recent review of the Social Workers Registration Act presented to parliament in December last year. Anyone can currently claim to be a social worker in New Zealand and they are not required to be registered or vetted by the Police.
“Mandatory registration of social workers is urgently needed to ensure that vulnerable children in New Zealand, and the social work profession, are protected from individuals who do not meet the high standards expected of professional social workers. The Board is aware that this is not an isolated event and there are too many unregulated individuals, claiming to be social workers, causing harm to those already vulnerable. ” said Ms Hocquard.