An Opportunity Missed? A Failure to Listen? And Whose Advice was Privileged?

Written By: - Date published: 9:31 am, April 21st, 2018 - 26 comments
Categories: liberalism, Parliament, Politics, Social issues, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: ,

First published by Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand (RSW Collective) April 20

Tena Koutou Katoa,

The Social and Community Services Select Committee report published on 13 April 2018, is an example of an opportunity missed in regard to protecting the public and enhancing the professionalism of social work.  It is also an example of the Committee failing to listen to the majority of submitters, whilst at the same time raising questions about whose advice was privileged and why?

The opportunity missed is a scope of practice model of registration. A scope of practice would have set the boundaries of what is social work practice and what it is not. It would have made it clear where the boundaries are for social workers and how we differ from other professions and groups in the social services. It also would provide the starting point for specialist scopes of practice to be developed for fields of practice such as, child protection, youth justice, heath social work, mental health social work, kaimahi ora and pacific social work practice. Empowering the Social Workers Registration Board to define the scope of social work practice would also set a precedent for the wider the social services workforce, which is diverse and includes counsellors, youth workers, support workers, community workers, social entrepreneurs and others. It could also further the workforce development of the social services sector, because it would provide a model for other groups, such as youth work, counselling and support work to define their scope of practice. This is important because the social services and social development sector is likely to become a key field of work in the future, as the nature of work changes through automation. A scope of practice-based registration of social workers provides a policy framework that starts to plan for these changes. It also mirrors that used in the Health professions covered by the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act 2003. Notably the health sector is a major employer of social workers and there is a clear role for social workers across health in address the social determinants of health.

The Select Committee report indicates both a failure to listen and a failure to give the scope of practice due consideration. This is particularly evident in the timeframe of the early release of the report on 13 April, when it is due back on 30 April and the National party members’ minority opinion concerning “the restricted timeframe not giving the committee sufficient time to fully consider the submitters issues.” It is also apparent in the comment on page 7 where the report states, “Some of us consider that scopes of practice should have been explored further.”

Further evidence of the Committee’s failure to listen is that they seem to confuse professional social work with unregulated support work and general helping when talking about workforce planning on pages 7 -8 and express an interest in advancing the workforce development for non-regulated social support workers.

The select committee report is also reflective of a Government knows best discourse, by following the advice of the Ministry of Social Development in its report dated 4 April 2018 over the majority evidence of the submitters and the advice of the Social Workers Registration Board, the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, The Social Services Providers Aotearoa, and the Tangata Whenua Association of Social Workers. The Ministry of Social Development’s advice is flawed and fails to acknowledge the work done by the SWRB already in regard to establishing a scope of practice (see: http://swrb.govt.nz/download/when-an-annual-practising-certificate-is-required/).

The conclusion that I am left with is the bureaucrats have once again gained control of the social work profession and want to manage social work and social workers under a neoliberal managerialist ideology.

Going forward the challenge that social workers face should the Bill pass in its current form is to claim our professional identity, hold ourselves to be social workers and be a member professional body such as the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Worker and/or the Tangata Whenua Association of Social Workers. In other words we take ownership of clauses b and c in Section 6AAB which state:

A person is practising as a social worker for the purposes of this Act (and practises and willing to practise as a social worker have corresponding meanings) if that person—

(b) in undertaking any work for gain or reward, holds himself or herself out to be a social worker:

(c) holds a position, in a voluntary capacity or as a member of any body or organisation, that is described using the words “social worker” or “social work”

Kia Kaha,

Kieran.

For further information please see the following.

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill- Submissions and advice

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Ministry of Social Development Departmental Report 2018 04 09

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Social Service Providers Aotearoa

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Social Workers Registration Board

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Social Workers Registration Board Supp 1

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Social Workers Registration Board scope of practice

Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill – Tangata Whenua Social Workers Association supp 1

26 comments on “An Opportunity Missed? A Failure to Listen? And Whose Advice was Privileged?”

  1. Rosemary McDonald 1

    Thanks for bringing this to the attention of those of us concerned that this new government is going to be business as usual.

    So… submitters contributions largely sidelined in favour of the Ministry narrative?

    Bodes very ill for Health issues.

    • Bill 1.1

      At first blush, it all looks very bad.

      This bit kind of stopped me in my tracks.

      However, we were advised that defining “social work” in a scope of practice would be difficult,…

      So if there is no definition of what a social worker is, or of what work social workers do, does that mean that I, unqualified, can be employed to do social work?

      And what would that mean for wage levels, retaining skills and knowledge in the profession, and for people who need very knowledgeable and expert help/advice?

      • tracey 1.1.1

        And there must be a definition because they have a registration process.

        This is a crucial area and lies at the heart of many of the solutions to what fails our vulnerable.

        I will add that as someone who worked in Tertiary teaching youth workers and social workers, the Social Work lecturers can be very disdainful of anyone NOT a qualified social worker.

        Collaboration is key across the entire sector

      • Smellpir 1.1.2

        Yes Bill, you’ve got it in one! Imagine translating this into nursing and we abandoned the professional process for training and demarcating scope of practice for nurses? How many days would pass before budget-stretched Health Boards began rapidly re-defining health assistant jobs and carving out massive salary savings?

        • Descendant Of Sssmith 1.1.2.1

          Or alternatively maybe the health assistants who run around all night in the mental health units doing the work nurses get paid to do, while the nurses read, knit, sleep might get a pay increase.

          Not likely but let’s not pretend that the underpaid health assistants don’t already do quite a bit of nurses work currently and the nurses like it that way.

      • koreropono 1.1.3

        Not only is the answer yes, anyone can be employed to do what were traditionally social work roles, this has been happening for many years! This piece of legislation was supposed to stop that from happening.

        After working in the social service sector for years, and as a qualified social worker, with all the trappings that come with that qualification, student loan, registration, Annual Practicing Certificate and regular supervision, competency assessments and accountability with serious consequences if I stuff up etc etc, I find myself competing with unqualified individuals. These quasi social workers are without qualifications, some wiling to accept less than minimum wage – at times I would be competing with former truck drivers, people made redundant from factory work and who have no clue what they are doing (but arrogantly think that speaking a few words of te reo Maori or wanting to help people is good enough qualification). Organisations are openly manipulating data to feign outcomes (I’ve seen this happen and heard of incidents of qualified staff contracts being fraudulently used to gain contracts or pass audits). This piece of legislation would have and should have stopped these practices from happening, this legislation would have protected and given clients some assurance that the people working with them are qualified to do the work and are accountable for that work.

        I could probably go on and on but I think this probably deserves a whole new post on its own!

  2. AsleepWhileWalking 2

    What a cluster fuck.

  3. Incognito 5

    I confess that I struggle with the content and implications of all that is raised in this Post. That said, how much might be due to an ideological struggle and dynamics (internal politics) in the Select Committee and how much is due to incompetence.

    • Tracey 5.1

      And how much is due to the Social Work Profession Overseers. Have a read of link above to Gareth Hughes, who is SC Chair. Opportunity to ask him ore questions I am sure.

      • Incognito 5.1.1

        I can’t see a response as such. I assume I have to be on FB?

        Edit: just seen your comment @ 7.2, thank you.

  4. Smellpir 6

    This is a total smack in the gob for everyone who has worked so hard for so many yearst to get the previous government to recognise the professional needs and underpinning of the Social Work profession. Getting Tolley et al. to agree to the original version of this legislation was a huge victory for quiet achievers in the social work policy space who worked their guts out to get a good outcome from a sceptical government.

    Then to have a Labour government gut the legislation in the final stages of select committee is absolutely astonishing. Kieran O’Donaghue is playing his critique with a straight bat – and trying to make sense of the indefensible in order to counter it… However, this just looks like a simple attempt by folks at MSD to find any way possible to save money on big social service contracts – exactly the kind of thing we expect from the other side, not from Labour!

    Huge own goal. Luckily they’ve got two more readings to correct this massive error of judgement.

    • veutoviper 6.1

      I can see exactly where you and Kieran are coming from after the research I have done today – see 7 below. I can fully understand your anger.

      I don’t believe that you can say that the Labour Government has gutted the legislation as such, however, as from what I have found so far, IMHO it seems to be an inexperienced Select Committee rushing things before the majority of them have fully got to grips with the history etc of this very important issue and thus the contents of the submissions. And also possibly being ‘captured’ by some MSD ‘folks’ as you say who are finding it hard to change their spots – and attitudes.

      The make-up of the new Select Committee is also 9 members, four of whom are National MPs, with the other five made up of 3 Labour, 1 Green and 1 NZF.

      I suspect that there will be a lot of changes – maybe even before the report goes back into the House …

    • tracey 6.2

      Have you visited my link to Gareth Hughes’ response to this comment by Kieran,

  5. veutoviper 7

    Like others here I was nonplussed by the Select Committee report. So I have done some research this morning on background etc to this Bill and the situation that now exists.

    I see that Tracey has already put up the list of Select Committee members which was where I also started. The make-up of the Committee is apparently very different to that of the Social Services Committee under the previous National Government but I know it takes some time to find the details of former Select Committee membership and I don’t have time at present.

    I then looked at the origins of the Bill itself and in brief these are:

    – Introduced by Anne Tolley as Minister of Social Development on 9 August 2017.

    – First Readiing was held on 17 August 2017 – the last sitting day of the previous Government before dissolution for the general election.’ Referred to the Social Services Committee but with no dates for submissions or reports. (This was normal as pointed out by the Speaker in the opening few paras of the First Reading transcript – link below.)

    – Presumably in the first stages/meetings of the new Social Services & Community Select Committee (eg 29 Nov 2017, 5 Dec 2017) the due dates of 31 Jan 2018 for submissions and 30 April 2018 for the SC report were decided. (Nothing immediately obvious for decisions on these dates from the list of matters discussed to date by the SC – and too many reports for me to check in my limited time today.)

    The actual transcript of the 17 August 2017 First Reading of the Bill provides excellent background to the long and complicated history behind this Bill which seems to go right back to 2003 and the 2003 Act.

    I recommend reading this transcript for this background, and the positions etc of the different parties and their involvement over the years – and also of the various related professional organisations and on the ground interested parties.
    For example, while this Bill was drafted by the National Government, earlier government and members’ bills had been floated previously under the former Labour government.

    It also indicates that the new Select Committee probably has very few members with this long background if you compare who spoke in this first reading from a position of knowledge and the membership of the new Select Committee. Surprisingly Darroch Ball of NZF may possibly be the only carry over from the previous Select Committee.

    https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20170817_20170817_32

    Following the formation of the new government Carmel Sepuloni has become sponsor of the Bill in place of Anne Tolley. Here is the base Parliament webpage for the Bill itself.

    https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_74844/social-workers-registration-legislation-bill

    My impressions just on the above, are that this Bill is now being rushed too fast after many years of failure to get it off the ground. Not trying to apportion blame etc but a very new Committee trying to make an impression before they have the experience to do justice to this very important subject?

    Addendum – the transcript also gives a good summary of who can call themselves a social worker at present (anyone?); and the tertiary education required etc to become registered etc thus covering some of the questions raised in comments above.

    • Smellpir 7.1

      Thanks VtV, that is a really helpful primer on the long road that we’ve travelled down on this one. I’m very encouraged that you think this is ‘cockup’ not ‘conspiracy’ by a hasty and unfamiliar select committee (not my area of expertise) because that increases the chances of a reversal in the next stage of the process.

      Surely the govt members of the select committee will be finely tuned to the huge gasp of horror that rippled around senior social work leaders and educators when the implications of the changes were being discussed over morning tea on Thursday.
      We aren’t exactly hardened and cynical lobbyists like the Taranaki gas riggers welfare society, rather the kind of core constituency that they should be able to rely on for wholesale support of new social policy intiatives….

      • veutoviper 7.1.1

        Long public service experience in areas working with Parliament. Doing some more work to see what experience each current member has had on the Select Committee and who was on the former Committee under the Nat govt but have to stop now. BUT I doubt that the Minister Carmel Sepuloni is going to be impressed with the current report – she has long experience in this issue as indicated in her first reading speech. Hence my feeling that the Committee might be sent back to do a bit more work… Maybe that is why it was released early on 13 April and not held to 30 April – the deadline. To get reaction and then amend. Must go for now.

    • tracey 7.2

      This is what Hughes wrote after I asked him his reaction to Kieran’s statement

      “Thanks for getting in touch. We did hear a lot on this point and I did raise it but it was outside the original bill’s scope which was just for title protection. In our committee report we note the Social Workers Registration Board will consider it and the Minister has also said she’ll consider it going forward as well. The bill is an improvement on the status quo and while many wanted scopes of practise included there are other ways to achieve it. Cheers “

      • Rosemary McDonald 7.2.1

        Thanks for that Tracey. Don’t do fb so unable to see reply.

      • veutoviper 7.2.2

        Thanks Tracey

        I did see Hughes’ response to you and was a little concerned that Hughes has said that the scope of the original bill was just for title protection. The Bill states its purpose as:

        The bill is an omnibus bill which mainly seeks to amend the Social Workers Registration Act 2003. Part 2 of the bill would also amend the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, and make consequential amendments to the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994.

        The bill aims to increase the professionalism of the social work profession and protect the public from harm by:
        • making the registration system compulsory for all social workers
        • protecting the use of the title “social worker”
        • ensuring that social workers are competent and fit to practise
        • providing an appropriate complaints and disciplinary process.

        The bill would require all social workers to be registered within 2 years after the bill is enacted.

        At present, section 13 of the Social Workers Registration Act provides a pathway to registration for social workers with sufficient experience but without a recognised social work qualification. The bill would remove that pathway 5 years after its enactment. The bill would allow for people who are likely to meet the criteria in section 13 to remain in the social work profession while their application for registration based on previous experience is considered. At the end of the 5-year period, people who are registered under section 13 based on previous experience would be treated as having been registered under section 12 of the Act (Criteria for full registration).

        The bill would also amend existing provisions to improve the Act’s effectiveness and transparency. They include:
        • amending the composition of the Social Workers Registration Board
        • replacing the existing 5-yearly competence assessments with processes that allow for continuous professional development for practising social workers
        • requiring vetting by the Police as part of the Board’s assessment of whether a person is a fit and proper person to practise as a social worker
        • requiring social workers’ employers to report to the Board any reasonable belief that a social worker is not competent, has engaged in serious misconduct, or is unable to perform their functions due to a mental or physical condition
        • requiring social workers to report to the Board any reasonable belief that another social worker is unable to perform their functions due to a mental or physical condition
        • aligning the complaints and disciplinary processes with similar regulatory regimes
        • expanding the situations where the Board can suspend a social worker’s registration or impose conditions
        • setting out the principles that the Board should use when setting any required educational qualifications and professional development.

        The bill would also amend the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 to ensure that criminal convictions could not be concealed from the Police vetting for considering whether a person was a fit and proper person.

        In other words, a lot more than just title protection.

        As Tolley, Sepuloni and Darroch Ball pointed out in the First Reading, the Bill has been a long time coming – and goes right back to 2003 when the original Social Workers Registration Act came into force. A number of attempts have been made over the years including Member’s Bills by Sepuloni and Ball to resolve issues including title protection, mandatory registration AND scope of practice getting nowhere to date.

        As Ball discussed very clearly in his speech, detailed submissions were made to the former Social Services Committee Inquiry in 2016 on the scope of practice/definition of social work which appear to have been ignored in the original draft of the Bill filed last August. Ball’s speech actually explains very clearly imho why a scope of practice is needed – it’s the Why title protection (and to a lesser degree, mandatory registration) is needed. Well worth reading as it gets to the core of the problem IMHO.

        Further detailed submissions were made this year on the need for a scope of practice, which again seem to have been brushed off.

        So this round “title protection” and mandatory registration only?

        What – another 20 years for scope of practice?

        I can fully understand the anger and frustration out there.

        As you will see from the work I have done on looking at Select Committee make up etc, I am concerned that this will be seen as incompetence by the current Govt and the current govt team on the Committee (including the Chair), with Nats able to play the card that they wanted better consideration and a longer time to do so, etc, etc.

        However, there are also things that Sepuloni said in her first reading speech that on re-reading I get the impression that she is not necessarily going to support scope of practice. I am relooking at this but may have to take back my remarks that she may not be happy with the report.

        I actually feel sorry for Hughes as new to the Committee and the subject, and his first go at being a Chair. The timeline was also set before he came onto the Committee to replace Jan Logie at the end of Jan 2018.

    • greywarshark 7.3

      This from the facebook reply by Gareth Hughes attempts to be short and concise but leaves the feeling of the Select Committee giving it a once over lightly, it provides some improvement mentality.

      …The bill is an improvement on the status quo and while many wanted scopes of practise included there are other ways to achieve it. Cheers

      When the effort to get formalities spelled out is realised, not regarding the work as someone else’s problem that can be thrust at anyone on two, or may be four legs, this is something with which we cannot put up.

      And can it be that a dog could become a social worker, now I think about numbers of legs. They can be well trained and indispensable to their owners and friends. Guidelines are surely needed to show respect for the training, the skills, the experience and wisdom required by people and there should be a professional ladder for all which carries pay rises with it.

      • tracey 7.3.1

        It is FB and in fairness he was responding bloody quickly to a stranger (me) on Facebook.

        We might not like his reply but to have such a prompt response from a politician is rare.

  6. veutoviper 9

    Further to discussion at 6 and 7 above re the Social Services and Community Select Committee which has examined this Social Workers Registration Legislation Bill, I have had a very close look at the members of the Select Committee and their experience – and the imbalance in this regard between the 5 government members and the 4 National members.

    This is not criticism of the rather inexperienced (L/NZF/G) government team compared to the National team – rather it is a problem that may be encountered in many other instances in coming months re Select Committees as pointed out below. See the three paras starting with “In summary, the Committee members …”.

    I have also included details about the make up of previous Social Services Committees under the National government as a Who’s Who of current MPs who have had previous experience in this area.

    This detail is probably of little interest to lots of people here, but having done the research, I thought it might be of use to those like Smellpir, Amy, Kieran and koreropono and others who are directly involved to target with their concerns a wider range of MPs in Parliament who have had some experience in this area. Feel free to use this info as you wish etc.
    ——————-

    The current Social Services & Community Select Committee is made up of nine Members:

    4 National MPs – Alfred Ngaro, Judith Collins, Louise Upston and Maureen Pugh
    3 Labour – Kris Faafoi, Priyance Radhakrishnan and Greg O’Connor
    1 Green – Gareth Hughes
    1 NZF – Darroch Ball.

    Since the new Committee was formed in November 2017 under the new Government, there have been three changes to its membership.

    In November 2017, the Green Party member appointed to the Committee and as Chairperson was Jan Logie, who had had considerable experience on previous Social Services Committees as a member from 21/12/2011 – 14/08/2014 and 21/10/2014 – 22/08/2017.

    On 31 January 2018, Gareth Hughes replaced Jan Logie as the Green Party member and Chairperson. He had had no previous experience on this Select Committee (SC) or on other SCs dealing with social/community issues, but this is not an unusual practice.

    In November 2017, the four National Party members appointed to the Committee were Alfred Ngaro, Michael Woodhouse, Louise Upston and Simeon Brown. With Simon Bridges becoming National Party Leader, Woodhouse and Brown were replaced by Judith Collins and Maureen Pugh on 21 March 2018.

    In terms of previous membership on this Committee and its predecessors, the only one of the five Labour/NZF/Green Government Committee Members with previous experience is Darroch Ball, a member for three years 2014 -2017.

    Two of the three Labour members (Radhakrishnan and O’Connor) were new to Parliament in 2017, while Faafoi has considerable SC experience but none in this area. As noted above, Gareth Hughes had no previous experience.

    OTOH, the four member National team on the Committee is a pretty heavy team with three members (Collins, Ngaro and Pugh having had considerable experience on previous Social Services SCs (and three (Collins, Ngaro and Upston) as Ministers in the previous Government.

    Collins was on previous Committees as a Member 15/10/2002 – 21/05/2003 and 4/11/2003 -13/08/2004, and as Deputy Chair 9/11/2005 – 3/10/2008. This covered the period when the original Social Workers Registration Act was considered and passed into law in April 2003.

    Ngaro was a Member of the Committee 21/1/2011 – 29/01/2014 and then Deputy Chair for three years 29/01/2014 – 14/08/2014 and again 22/10/2014 – 7/02/2017.

    Louise Upston, while no previous experience on this Committee had considerable previous SC experience on a wide range of other Select Committees and range of areas as a Minister or Associate Minister.

    Pugh, who entered Parliament as a List member on 21/12/2015, was also a Member 16/03/2016 – 8/2/2017, and also had other Select Committee experience over 2016 and 2017.

    In summary, the only Committee members with experience on previous incarnations of this SC are: Darroch Ball (NZF); and for National – Collins, Ngaro and Pugh.

    So a considerable imbalance in previous experience in this area between the five Government members and the four National Party/Opposition members.

    However, please note that this imbalance in experience is not exceptional or unexpected and it exists in many of the new Select Committees under the new Government. This results from National’s nine years in Government and their large number of former Ministers as well as 56 MPs available for Select Committee roles; and the lack of similar experience on the part of Labour, NZF and the Greens after the same period in Opposition or sitting on the cross benches.

    This means that the more experienced MPs in Labour, NZF and GP are really stretched in covering Ministerial duties and Select Committees etc, whereas the National Party has a great number of experienced MPs including former Ministers twiddling their thumbs and able to create mischief if they choose on Select Committees as a prime tool to do so.
    ——————–

    In contrast to the current situation, the membership of the previous Social Services Committee remained very consistent over the 2014 -2017 National Government. As at August 2017, when this Social Workers Registration Bill was first read in Parliament before referral to the Select Committee, the Committee comprised the following:
    Joanne Hayes (Chairperson) Feb – Aug 2017 only. (Alfred Ngaro had been Chair from 22/10/2014 – 4/02/2017, and previously a member 2011 – 2014 and Deputy Chair Jan – 0ct 2014)

    Darroch Ball
    Hon Jacqui Dean
    Jan Logie (Logie had also been on the previous 2011 – 2014 Committee)
    Jono Naylor
    Hekia Parata (Parata and Matt Doocey switched several times 2014 – 2017)
    Parmjeet Parmar
    Carmel Sepuloni
    Stuart Smith
    Phil Twyford

    Of the speakers in the First Reading of the Social Workers Registration Bill, the following had had experience on this Select Committee over time:

    Ann Tolley (N) 2001-2002, 2005-2007
    Carmel Sepuloni (L) 2010-2011, 2014-2017
    Joanne Hayes (N) Chair 8/2/2017-22/8/2017 only
    Louisa Wall (L) 2013 – 2015
    Stuart Smith (N) 2014 – 2017 incl Deputy Chair May – Aug 2017
    Jan Logie (G) 2011 – 2017
    Darroch Ball (NZF) 2014 – 2017
    Parmjeet Parmar (N) 2014 – 2017
    Marama Davison (G) – None
    Ian McElvie (N) – None
    Peeni Henare (L) – None
    Nuk Korako (N) – None

    • Smellpir 9.1

      Thanks VtV, I really appreciate the support you are showing and the care you have put into helping us strategize a step forward. You are really showing how The Standard can still work to help us understand and respond to political situations.

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