New Social Workers Registration System in South Australia


This article applies to organisations in South Australia who employ social workers.

Social Workers Registration Bill 2021 (SA)

Please be advised that the Social Workers Registration Bill 2021 (SA) passed South Australian parliament on 1 December 2021 and will commence on a day to be proclaimed.  This Bill establishes a registration system for social workers in South Australia, aiming to maintain high standards and ensure registered social workers are held accountable for their professional conduct.  The Bill also establishes the Social Workers Registration Board of South Australia (the Board) to regulate the practice of social work.

Registration

Under section 22 of the Bill, a person must not, after the prescribed day, undertake social work services, or engage another person to undertake social work services unless the person is registered.  For these purposes, the prescribed day is defined as 6 months after the day on which section 22 comes into operation, or a later date prescribed by regulation, if any.

A person is eligible for registration as a social worker if the person has:

  • the appropriate qualifications or sufficient practical experience in practising social work; and
  • a working with children check, conducted in the last 5 years; and
  • been deemed a fit and proper person to be registered; and
  • has met any other requirements for registration, either prescribed by regulation or determined by the Board.

It should be noted that section 33 of the Bill states that the Board may find that a person is not fit and proper to be registered only if satisfied that there are grounds on which a reasonable person may reach that conclusion.  Such grounds include where the person has not satisfied the Board that they are able to communicate effectively for the purposes of practising as a social worker and the Board is satisfied that the person is unable to satisfactorily perform the functions required to practise as a social worker because of a mental or physical condition.

Pursuant to section 25, a social worker must apply to the Board for registration and pay the accompanying fee.  Applications for renewal of registration must be made not less than one month before the expiry of the registration.  Registration remains in force until 30 June, 3 years after the grant of registration, unless a lesser period has been decided by the Board as a condition to a registration.

As part of the application, an applicant must:

  • consent to a criminal record check; and
  • provide evidence that a working with children check has been conducted in the last 5 years; and
  • submit a criminal history report; and
  • if required, submit to a medical examination by a medical practitioner selected by the applicant and authorise the practitioner’s report be provided to the Board.

When granting registration to an applicant, the Board may authorise the applicant to practice within a specific scope of practice.  A person may also hold non-practising registration.  Those with non-practising registrations must not undertake work as a social worker.

Upon registration, the social worker will be issued with a certificate of registration.

Social work services and qualifications

Significantly, the newly established Board will specify the meaning of social work services and the qualifications required by a social worker in each scope of practice (also as specified by the Board).

Obligations on registered social workers

Registered social workers will have a number of obligations under the Bill.  It will be a condition of all registrations that a working with children check must be conducted at least every 5 years.  In addition, all registrations will be conditional on the registered social worker completing a prescribed minimum number of hours of further education and training, approved by the Board.

Furthermore, if a person is charged with or convicted of an offence, the person must give written notice of the charge or conviction to the Board within 14 days.  Similarly, notice within 14 days is required if a person is dismissed from employment as a social worker, or resigns, in response to allegations of professional misconduct or allegations of improper conduct relating to a child.

Under section 30, a registered social worker must give specified information to the Board when required.  Importantly, the obligation to provide information relating to a registered social worker also applies to the current or former employer of the social worker.  Failure to comply with this requirement can result in a maximum fine of $1,250.

A registered social worker must return their certificate of registration within 28 days after a condition of the worker’s registration has been varied or revoked, the registration has been suspended or cancelled, or any other change in information recorded in the certificate has occurred.  Not doing so will result in a fine of up to $1,250.

Under section 39, a registered social worker must produce their certificate of registration upon request by the Registrar or authorised person, a person to whom the worker is providing (or has provided) social work services, a service provider who has provided (or is proposing to provide) social work services through the social worker, or any other person prescribed by regulations.  An offence against this provision can result in a fine of up to $1,250.

The Register

This Bill also establishes a register of social workers to be maintained by the Board.  If a registered social worker changes their name or their nominated contact address, they must inform the Board of the change within 28 days.  Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $1,250.  A registered social worker must also provide notice as soon as reasonably practicable (but within 7 days) after a working with children check has been completed and provide any details of that check required by the Board.

Obligations on employers

Employers of social workers will be required to submit a written report to the Board where they have dismissed, or accepted the resignation, of a social worker in response to allegations of professional misconduct.  The report must describe the circumstances of the dismissal or resignation and contain any information as prescribed by the regulations.  The report must also be provided within 7 days.  Failure to comply with this requirement can result in a fine of up to $5,000.

Offences

This Bill establishes a number of offences, including:

  • Under section 34, a person must not hold themselves, or another, out as being registered or permit another person to do so (maximum penalty – $10,000);
  • Under section 35, a person must not hold themself out as having a registration that is not subject to a condition, or permit another person to do so if their registration is subject to conditions (maximum penalty – $10,000);
  • Under section 36, a person must not knowingly or recklessly take or use the title “social worker” in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is a registered social worker (maximum penalty: in the case of a natural person – $60,000 or 3-years imprisonment, in the case of a body corporate – $120,000);
  • Under section 37(1), a person must not contravene or fail to comply with a condition of their registration (maximum penalty – $10,000);
  • Under section 37(2), a person must not contravene a condition of their registration that requires the Board to be notified of a matter or imposes a restriction on the practice of social work by the person (maximum penalty – $5,000); and
  • Under section 38, a person must not, by fraud or any other dishonest means, procure (whether for themself or for another person) registration, or reinstatement of registration (maximum penalty – $10,000).

It is also a requirement to comply with a request for information or other material for an investigation.  Failing to do so, without a reasonable excuse, can result in a fine of $5,000.

 

Please click here to access the full Bill.

 


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au