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Social Worker

Kaimahi Toko i te Ora

Social workers provide advice, advocacy and support to people with personal and social problems. They also help with community and social issues.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay for social workers varies depending on their experience and employer.

  • Social workers employed by district health boards typically earn between $45,000 and $62,000 a year.
  • Social workers at Child, Youth and Family usually earn between $42,000 and $66,000.

Source: Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.

What you will do

Social workers may do some or all of the following:

  • work to advance the well-being of children, young people, their families and communities
  • link people with community resources such as benefits and accommodation
  • talk with clients about their problems, and help them make decisions about these problems
  • advise people on their rights and opportunities
  • support people in crisis situations
  • write reports and case notes
  • give advice on social problems
  • use the law to ensure that young people are held accountable for their offences.

Skills and knowledge

Social workers need to have:

  • knowledge of social work practice and theories used in New Zealand and overseas
  • an understanding of social and cultural issues and problems
  • knowledge of human behaviour, development, relationships and social systems
  • counselling and negotiating skills
  • knowledge of social policy and how it is developed
  • an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi.

For those who specialise in working with Māori communities, knowledge of Māori language and culture is essential.

Working conditions

Social workers:

  • may work full or part time. They may work long hours, and are sometimes required to be on call or do shift work
  • work in schools, hospitals, homes, marae, government agencies and in the community. They may also work in residential centres and courts
  • may work in stressful conditions, as they may deal with challenging and highly distressed clients
  • may travel locally to visit people in their homes.

What's the job really like?

Janine Olasa - Social Worker

Janine Olasa

Social worker Janine Olasa works for a service that helps young people who are experiencing psychosis.

"I am in the kaimanaaki position, which means that I work with Māori families. The idea of our service is that by providing information and education early on, we can help people to manage their illness better.

"We teach them about early warning signs, coping strategies and medication. We try and help them to accept elements of their illness and learn to live with it. With Māori clients, we also try to promote a healthy cultural identity."

Janine says dealing with difficult situations is a necessary part of the job. "When people are in a state of heightened emotion, there can be some real practical challenges because they may become violent or abusive."

But she also gets a great sense of achievement when she sees a client making changes for the better.

"It's great when a nice shift happens for a client and they really start to make changes, and succeed in maintaining those changes. I find those things hugely rewarding. It feels like an honour and a privilege to help people at a time when they are quite vulnerable."

Janine Olasa is of Ngāti Porou and Samoan descent.

Natalia talks about her job as a social worker for Child, Youth and Family - 2.12 mins.

What’s so great about being a social worker?

The best thing about I guess having a social work degree is that I could be working as a care and protection social worker doing what I’m doing now for Child, Youth & Family, or I could work with elderly, or I could work in schools. So it’s the variety that I like about social work.

What does visiting clients involve?

So when we first visit a house we will assess the immediate safety and immediate risk. If it’s an emergency we will make immediate safety plans and that might involve the police but generally, those plans will involve wider family or the child going to stay somewhere else.

When we’re solving problems there’s room for creativity in the sense that my solution isn’t always the right way or the only way, and often families will come up with their own solutions that you go, “Oh, actually that could work. That’s really great.” And as a social worker I’m taught that I’m not the expert – that actually that family and that person is the expert of their own life and their own situation.

So when we go back to the office after seeing a family, we will have a joint consult with the supervisor and with other social workers and it’s about having a range of ideas and having accountability when we make decisions.

I never thought I would work at Child, Youth and Family and I never thought I’d do family social work. But now that I’m here I love this work and at the moment I couldn’t see myself working anywhere else.

The little things are really important in this job. When a child goes home after a long time being in care, and you know that that’s the best thing for them – to be home – and you know that they’ll be safe when they go home. Those are really important things to acknowledge.


Social workers usually earn
per year
Source: Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers
Janine Olasa and a colleague looking at a report

Janine Olasa talks over a report with one of her colleagues

Updated 13 Dec 2013