Lifting the veil on the government’s regulatory agenda for the social work profession in Aotearoa New Zealand

Howard Randal

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: The article discusses the two contrasting agendas evident when statutory registration for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand was introduced in 2003 – that of the professional association and that of the government.

METHOD:  The approach taken draws on a longitudinal research study of the aspirations for statutory registration held by a sample of members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZSW). In addition, the motives behind the professionalisation strategy introduced by the principal government social work service are examined and analysed applying Foucault’s concept of governmentality.

FINDINGS: The qualitative analysis of the data shows that the profession, although aspiring to having some role in statutory registration, also held concerns about its implications. By way of contrast, the professionalisation strategy adopted by the government social work service shows it was driven by public service performance, fiscal and risk management imperatives.

CONCLUSIONS: The application of the Foucauldian theory of governmentality to the data and findings shows that the introduction of statutory registration is a manifestation of the managerial and statutory controls adopted by government and a means of governmentality. This has resulted in the government holding the upper hand in providing public accountability for social work practice thereby perpetuating its hold over the profession with the risk that the ANZASW is left in its wake.

 


Keywords


social worker; statutory registration; profession; governmentality; regulation; risk management.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id469

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