The Royal Commission into abuse in state care: where is the survivor voice?

This is a guest blog by Kerri Cleaver (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe), Social worker, PhD candidate.

Is the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the care of Faith-based Institutions (RC) a safe place for Māori and survivors to talk about their experiences and what should we be doing to support them as social workers? It is a question that’s been rolling around my head for quite some time now. I am a survivor.

My story of abuse in the foster system isn’t long, it didn’t go on for years and the traumatic effects for me are now mostly healed and now somewhat subtle in their visibility so it is not something that I put out there. It has been difficult enough through my adult life batting off all the judgements and consequences of being a foster system survivor so I’ve kept the paedophile foster parent experience a secret. It was a tough decision deciding I would engage with the RC, somewhat influenced and inspired by the work of many survivors who have laid bare their experiences for the sole purpose of getting a Royal Commission. Because I want children and young people to be safe, nurtured and have their mana enhanced when they interface with our child protection system, I felt an obligation, to myself, my profession and to my iwi to engage. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “be the change you want to see in the world”. But lately I have been reflecting on the question “is this process safe for me as a Māori woman?” and what is our role as social workers to support our whanau going through the RC process?

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“Watch what you say”: Radicalism in community development?

This guest blog is by: Dr Lynda Shevellar, (Lecturer in Community Development, The University of Queensland), Peter Westoby, (Associate Professor of Social Science and Community Development, Queensland University of Technology), and Dr Athena Lathouras, (Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Sunshine Coast).

“I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal”

– Supertramp “The Logical Song”, 1979

“Watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical’” sang the English progressive rock band Supertramp in the late 1970s, echoing the way that the word “radical” is so often used to arouse ideas of extremism and instability. And given the recent tragic events in New Zealand – and in so many places around the globe – some might question the timing of this reflection. We could all be forgiven for shying away from a call for more radicalism and inviting a gentler framing for our activities. However, a closer interrogation of a radical agenda, and its place in community development, suggests that more rather than less radicalism may be just what social work in the Antipodes needs, and most particularly in these heartbreaking times.

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Broken hearted

To our comrades and friends in Aotearoa and abroad. Our hearts are broken. We stand with, and grieve with, our Muslim brothers and sisters. There is a lot to say about what happened in our community this weekend. But not today. Today, we have no words, only tears.

Social work at the end of the world: Again!

A Guest post by David Kenkel

Trigger warning: this post discusses bleak likelihoods that are painful to consider. The unmentioned backdrop to social work’s future is that the world has passed an ecological crisis point of no return and there is little chance that near-term catastrophe can be averted (see Bendall, 2018). This is a situation that the western world has not yet begun to face. This is a post about hope. Not hope that we can avert the coming environmental predicament, but hope that as communities face inevitable crisis, they will rediscover collective solidarity and wiser ways of living together. Social work can have a key role in this transition back to sanity. 

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Sex marker change should not be up for debate? What social workers need to know

A guest post by Kendra Cox and Eileen Joy, University of Auckland

On February 25th, Tracey Martin, the Minister for Internal Affairs, announced that the much-anticipated Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill (‘the Bill’) has been parked until further notice. The Bill contains, among other small changes to deaths and divorces, a number of amendments to the current Act that would make it significantly easier for transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex people (‘gender diverse and intersex people’) to change the sex marker on their birth certificate to better reflect who they are. According to a Parliamentary press release, the Bill was deferred to clarify some legal concepts and to increase public consultation. There has been some talk over the fact that after public consultation—a standard select committee process—the specific section relating to sex self identification was added. This type of addition (specifically ss22A-J), after public consultation is completely normal, and reflects a democratic process whereby the committee responded to a large number of submissions who requested this change.

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Understanding the Implications of the SOP

A further guest post by John Darroch

Just over a week ago I became aware of significant changes to the Social Work Registration Legislation Bill which I found deeply alarming. These changes are contained in a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which was introduced into the House by Carmel Sepuloni on 21 December 2018. I wrote a blog post drawing attention to a range of risks I believed the Bill contained.   

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Scopes of practice: A view from across the Tasman

A guest post by Justin Canty

John Darroch’s recent post  raises a number of crucial questions about the recently released Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) to the draft amendments to the Social Worker Registration Act. Within the SOP appears another ‘SoP’ – scopes of practice – as a method for identifying and circumscribing who and what is subject to the Act. In this contribution to the discussion, Justin Canty presents some further questions about the nature of scopes of practice and their application in the proposed amendments.

When I started work in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2007, I found myself surrounded by discussions of scopes of practice. Many mental health social workers were confronting the flow on effects from the HPCA Act and efforts by various professional groups to carve out ‘restricted practices’ which only that professional group performed. The core of the interprofessional tension in the mental health context was psychosocial interventions. Who “owned” those? Which profession could claim them as their sole province? This was of especial concern for social workers as the only profession working in mental health not covered by HPCAA.

Jumping forward a decade and a bit, we find ourselves in a new struggle over the uses of scopes of practice and being recognised for what we do as social workers.

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Scopes of Practice : An opportunity for ownership

Beehive, NZ government building.

A guest post by Amy Ross

Amy Ross writes a response to John Darroch’s article   “New supplementary order paper fundamentally changes social work registration bill – and should not proceed”.

Any registration of any profession by the state carries risk. The state has an appalling history of allowing atrocities to be undertaken by ‘officials’ and ‘professionals’ with the backing of the law. Therefore, registration for social work should of course be undertaken with vigilance and we need to ensure that implementing any legislation is done by us and does not erode the core principles of social work or allow the state to define our theoretical or ethical basis.

The first iteration of the Social Work Registration Bill tabled as a last act by Anne Tolley and the National Government posed enormous challenges to the future of our profession. The Social Work Community swung into action. There was a huge number of submissions (see the PSA one here) and an open letter petition that caught the attention of the new Minister Carmel Sepuluoni.

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New Supplementary Order Paper fundamentally changes Social Work Registration Bill – and should not proceed

A guest post by John Darroch

As many readers of this blog will be aware the government is currently considering the Social Workers Registration Bill. This bill was introduced to parliament in 2017 and contained a range of changes including mandatory registration and title protection for social workers. This bill has been through the select committee process, allowing for public submissions, and is currently awaiting its third reading in parliament.

Recently however, a new Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) introduced by Carmel Sepuloni has dramatically changed the purpose of the bill, and has the potential to significantly disrupt the social work profession in Aotearoa. The proposed SOP would change the registration process so that registered social workers will no longer have the ability to practice in whatever area they wish to. Instead, registration would involve applying to practice within a certain Scope of Practice. In order to gain endorsement to practice within a particular scope the applicant would have to meet conditions set by the SWRB. It seems likely that this will involve minimum levels of training, or demonstration of specific knowledge and/or experience relating to a particular type of social work.

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