Collaborative EnhanceR2P research project secures Ako Aotearoa funding

Posted on 30 November 2015

Researchers led by Open Polytechnic’s Neil Ballantyne have secured Ako Aotearoa funding for a collaborative sector-wide project into social workers’ readiness to practise in the field.

Researchers led by Open Polytechnic’s Neil Ballantyne have secured Ako Aotearoa funding for a collaborative sector-wide project into social workers’ readiness to practise in the field.

Enhancing the Readiness to Practise of Newly Qualified Social Workers (EnhanceR2P) will develop an evidence-informed, industry-agreed Professional Capabilities Framework. Neil Ballantyne, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Open Polytechnic is joined by Dr Liz Beddoe (University of Auckland), Dr Kathryn Hay (Massey University) and Dr Jane Maidment (University of Canterbury) in this research project which will clarify the capabilities of social workers at different stages – from newly-qualified through to experienced and advanced practitioners. Why is this research necessary?

Neil Ballantyne says “There has been a great deal of media attention on child protection practice, both here and overseas, where the competence of social workers has been publicly criticised. There have also been several challenges to the adequacy of social work education in New Zealand and the readiness of graduates when they enter the workforce. However, these challenges are based on anecdotal and impressionistic information rather than solid empirical evidence.

This research will develop an outcomes-based framework founded on targeted local research.”

The key research questions the EnhanceR2P project aims to answer are:
• What is the content of the current social work curriculum, and how is it being taught?
• How well-prepared are newly-qualified social workers to enter professional practice, and how is their learning supported and enhanced in the workplace?
• What are the professional capabilities we should expect of newly-qualified social workers, and of those at more experienced (senior/managerial) levels?

Funding for the three-year project (2016-2018) has come from the contestable Ako Aotearoa National Project Fund (NPF). The NPF is a strategic change fund that supports evidence-based change in teaching and learning practice. Ako Project Funds Manager Rhonda Thomson says “The EnhanceR2P project is clearly focused on improved outcomes for learners both during their learning experience and as graduates equipped to do their job. This is an ambitious project with a logical vision for change that could potentially have social, as well as educational, value.” You can view the EnhanceR2P project blog at

For more information on EnhanceR2P, or to request an interview with Neil Ballantyne, please contact:
Leanne Rate, Open Polytechnic Communications Manager
Phone: 027 599 5804 | Email:

BACKGROUND There are currently 17 tertiary education institutes that offer social work degree programmes in New Zealand. Their curricula are guided by ten core competencies outlined by the Social Workers Registration Board. EnhanceR2P will include stakeholder representation through a project advisory group including members of the Social Workers Registration Board, Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, Tangata Whenua Social Workers Association, and the Council of Social Work Education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Each project phase will conclude with consultation with three reference groups of educators, students, employers and service users: Māori, Pacific and open.

NEIL BALLANTYNE Originally from Scotland where he worked at the University of Strathclyde and the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Neil is currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Open Polytechnic. He teaches in the Social Work degree programme and publishes research work on social work education, social theory, social change and human service technology. Neil is a member of the governance board of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.

DR LIZ BEDDOE Dr Liz Beddoe is an associate professor of social work in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Liz's teaching and research interests include critical sociological perspectives on social work education, professional development and supervision. Current research projects focus on social work use of social media and the readiness of professionals to address child abuse and neglect.

DR KATHRYN HAY Kathryn is a senior lecturer and Director of Field Education in the School of Social Work, Massey University. Her teaching in the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes spans field education, research and policy areas. Recent research work has focused on field education, human rights and fields of practice.

DR JANE MAIDMENT Associate Professor Jane Maidment is the field education co-ordinator for social work at the University of Canterbury. She has had over 20 years of experience teaching into and researching practicum education both in New Zealand and Australia. Jane has published widely on practicum education as well as teaching and publishing on developing practice skills, and understanding social policy for social work.