‘Fit and proper’ and fieldwork: A dilemma for social work educators?


  • Tiffany Apaitia-Vague Social work tutors at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, based in New Plymouth.
  • Lesley Pitt Social work tutors at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, based in New Plymouth.
  • David Younger Social work tutors at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, based in New Plymouth.




social work education, field education, field work policies,


This article will focus on the four major issues that we have identified relating to ‘fit and proper’ policies and fieldwork. The first is the different levels of information that are held and shared by different entities. The second is the potential for such policies to directly contradict the principles of social work, and in particular social justice. Thirdly, it looks at the implications of being in a ‘contracting’ environment, and fourthly the position that social work educators are placed in as the ‘expert’ assessors of risk. Finally, we present some ideas that we hope will instigate a discussion amongst our profession and stakeholders. Throughout the article vignettes show practical applications of the issues that the article raises. While the vignettes are directly based on experiences that we have had while coordinating fieldwork, they do not correspond to specific cases. 


Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of Ethics (rev. ed.). Christchurch: ANZASW.

Barry, M. (2007). Effective approaches to risk assessment in social work: An international literature review. Retrieved from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/08/07090727/0

Cockerman, W. (2011). Sociology of mental disorder (8th edition). USA: Pearson.

Cournoyer, B. (2008). The social work skills workbook. USA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Crisp, B. (2006). Gatekeeping or redressing social exclusion: Expectations of social work educators in relation to incarcerated students. Social Work Review, 18(4), 4-11.

Dominelli, L. (2004) Social work: Theory and practice for a changing profession. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gendall, P. (2006). New Zealanders’ attitudes to mental illness. Palmerston North: Stigma in global context mental health study, Department of Marketing, Massey University.

Gillis, H., & Lewis, J. (2004). Addressing the issue of psychiatric disability in social work interns: the need for a problem-solving framework. Social Work Education 40(3), 391-402.

Haski-Leventhal, D., Gelles, R. and Cnān, R. (2010). Admitting convicted felons to social work programs: Conceptual dilemmas and practices. International Social Work, 53(1), 87-100.

Human Rights Commission (2008). Mental Illness and the Human Rights Act. Retrieved 29 September 2010. http://www.hrc.co.nz/home/hrc/disabledpeople/mentalillnessandhumanrights/mentalillnessandthehumanrightsact.php.

Kean, J. (2007). Professional ethics versus institutional expectations. Social Work Review. 12(2), 37-41.

Magen, R. H., & Emerman, J. (2000). Should convicted felons be denied admission to a social work education program? Yes! Journal of Social Work Education, 36(3), 401–7.

Madoc-Jones, I., Bates, J., Facer, B., & Roscoe, K. (2007). Students with criminal convictions: Policies and practices in social work education. British Journal of Social Work, 37(8), 1387-403.

Marie, D., Fergusson, D., & Boden, J. (2009). Ethnic identity and criminal offending in a New Zealand birth cohort. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 36(3), 354-367.

Ministry of Justice (2011). Obtaining a copy of your criminal record. http://www.justice.govt.nz/services/get-a-copy-of-your-criminal-record.

Ministry of Social Development (2011). Application form fact sheet. www.msd.govt.nz/documents/careers/.../ap-plication-fact-sheet.doc.

Nelson, P., & Cowburn, M. (2010). Social work admissions: Applicants with criminal convictions – the challenge of ethical risk assessment. British Journal of Social Work, 40(4), 1081-1099.

Perry, R. (2004). The impact of criminal conviction disclosure on the self reported offending profile of social work students. British Journal of Social Work, 34(7), 997-1008.

Shardlow, S. (2000). Legal responsbility and liability in field work. In L. Cooper & L. Briggs (eds.). Fieldwork in the Human Services (pp. 117-131). Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Sheehan, R. (2009). Social work and the law. In Connolly, M., & Harms, L. (Eds). Social work: Contexts and practice. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Social Workers Registration Act. (2003). Retrieved on 14 November 2011 from http://legislation,.govt.nz.

Social Workers Registration Board (2009). Fit and proper person: Policy statement. Retrieved on 18 August 2011 from http://www.swrb.govt.nz/Policy.html.

Social Workers Registration Board (2008). Code of conduct for social workers. Retrieved on 22 August 2011 from http://www.swrb.govt.nz/CodeOfConduct.html.

Smith, R. (2008). Social work and power. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Staniforth, B., & Fouche, C. (2006). An Aotearoa primer on ‘fit and proper’ – School version. Social Work Review, 18(4), 11-20.

Statistics New Zealand (2011). Convicted offenders. Table view. Retrieved from http://wdmzpub01.stats.govt.nz/wds/TableViewer/tableView.aspx.

Walker, P. (2010). For better or for worse ... A case study of social services partnerships in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Saarbrucken: Lambert Academic Publishing.

World Health Organisation (2005, December). Promoting and protecting the rights of people with mental disorders, 7 December 2005 - Information Sheet No. 1. Retrieved 29 September 2010. http://www.who.int/mental_health/policy




How to Cite

Apaitia-Vague, T., Pitt, L., & Younger, D. (2016). ‘Fit and proper’ and fieldwork: A dilemma for social work educators?. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 23(4), 55–64. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol23iss4id151