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Tighter laws called to protect vulnerable

Published: 31 January 2019

Published in The Advertiser

Written by Lauren Novak

SOUTH Australia should pass laws requiring social workers to be registered to better protect the vulnerable people they work with, advocates have told a parliamentary committee.

Currently anyone can identify themselves as a social worker without being required to hold certain qualifications or pass background checks.

Government departments and many non-government organisations impose stricter conditions on social workers they hire but advocates warn many are operating without any oversight.

The Australian Association of Social Workers and SA Council of Social Service yesterday urged MPs from all parties to create a system to register and monitor social workers’ qualifications and behaviour.

“Increasing numbers of social workers are working individually in sole practitioner positions and for not-for-profit organisations,” AASW board director Anita Phillips said.

“We often work with clients who are disadvantaged. A lot of our clients don’t even know that they have the right to complain (about misconduct).

“If you are in a role where you are using social work skills and knowledge then you should be registered, even if the job is not called social worker.” Similar roles can include youth worker, case worker or carer. Greens MP Tammy Franks has put a Bill to Parliament to establish a registration system, which is being examined by the parliamentary committee.

The move was recommended by the State Coroner following an inquest into the death of Chloe Valentine, who died after extensive contact with social workers in the public and private sector.Ms Phillips said social workers could voluntarily join the AASW and it could exclude those who are found to act improperly, but “that doesn’t stop them from practising”.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers