There is a troubled relationship between social work and science. Although western social work is not separate from the historical development of Enlightenment science and what has come to be understood as the project of modernity, it has always sat uncomfortably within this schema of knowledge. Since the time of Descartes (1596-1650) science has advanced a claim to objective truth – that the tool of scientific reason is a mechanism for naming, understanding, and controlling the world (Hyslop, 2012). There are more than a few problems with this belief system.
This blog site has been up and running for a little over five years now. Time passes rapidly. The object of our collective has been to provide viewpoints on a broad range of issues relevant to social work in contemporary society and to provide a platform for information and analysis that troubles the status quo. In some ways it seems that social workers are more reluctant to publicly critique the practice and policy frameworks which surround them than ever. Politics and management are often all about controlling the narrative: mandating what can be said and by whom. Increasingly social workers have taken on the message that they can only be active citizens within strict ideological parameters.
It is hard to know where to begin – with the burdens carried by social workers in the present – or with the possibilities facing the planet in the longer run. There are numerous uncertainties surrounding the time of Covid-19 in Aoteraoa-New Zealand and across the globe. Social suffering is the stock-in-trade of social work and as suggested in previous posts such crises impact unevenly in structurally unequal societies such as ours. What might this mean now and into the future?
This is a guest post by Bex Amos, social worker.
My name is Bex and I am a social worker. I first noticed my addiction to social working when I started experiencing the common symptoms of irritability, low mood, intrusive thoughts and insomnia. My diagnosis was indisputable when I started using risk-analysis assessments to measure the ability of parents to care for their own tamariki. I now like to call myself a recovering social worker, but the road to sobriety is a long and painful journey.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following is the response of the Re-Imagining Social Work Collective to the call for comments and suggestions by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board on their definition of ‘social work’ and proposed scope of practice.
In a previous blog post I discussed the current review by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) of its programme recognition standards. Since the programme recognition standards are what the SWRB use to recognise and (every five years) re-recognise a social work qualifying programme, any changes introduced as a result of the review would, in effect, reform social work education in Aotearoa New Zealand. A consultant has circulated a survey amongst stakeholders to invite comment on the existing standards (SWRB, 2013) including: the graduate profile, the curriculum, requirements for fieldwork placement, admission criteria, modes of delivery, and staffing requirements. In my last post I discussed curriculum content and argued that specifying required curriculum content would hinder rather than help curriculum improvement. Instead, I argued that the focus of our attention ought not to be on curriculum inputs but on clarifying the outcomes of qualifying education. In this post I want to continue with that argument, reflect on the survey questions about the graduate profile, and consider what an effective, outcomes-based social work education might look like.