Sunday Star Times 6 May 2012
More than 6000 people working with society’s most vulnerable are unqualified to help and critics want mandatory registration for all social workers to prevent well-meaning but untrained people doing more harm than good. Pressure is mounting for compulsory registration of social workers after a decade of a voluntary regime. Amid welfare reforms and high child-abuse rates, there is growing concern that those most at risk in society are being misled by good-intentioned carers who are not qualified to advise them. Last week the Social Workers Registration Board told Parliament that an abused child, terminally ill patient or unemployed family seeking budgeting advice currently had no assurance the person making decisions on their behalf was competent to do so. In the last census 14,000 people identified themselves as social workers. Of those, 3425 are registered and experts predict a further 2500-4500 of them would meet registration criteria. That leaves at least 6000 social sector workers of doubtful ability. “Today, I could be a builder and think `I’m going to be a social worker’ and go and put up a sign and be a social worker,” Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sanford-Reed said. Mandatory registration would make it illegal for non-registered community workers to describe themselves as social workers.