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Issue 53 (04/2024)

Table of Contents
  • Main Focus – Q&A
  • Work Reports
  • Sharing of Complaint Case

    Main Focus – Q&A

    Issues regarding the use of the social work title after de-registration

    The Social Workers Registration Ordinance (Cap. 505) ("the Ordinance") is established to safeguard the public interest. Through regulating the use of social work titles, it restricts the use of the titles "social worker" and/or related titles to those individuals who are being listed in the register

    Provision of the Ordinance

    Section 34

    Subject to subsections (3) and (4), a person whose name does not appear on the Register shall not be entitled to use——

    (a) the description “registered social worker”or“註冊社會工作者”

    (b) the initials “R.S.W.”;or

    (c) the description “social work””or“社會工作”or“social worker”or“社會工作者”or“社工”,

    whether in combination with any other description or any initials or otherwise, to describe his profession as being the social work profession or his social work professional qualifications.

    Section 35

    Any person who ——

    (h) not being a registered social worker (but without prejudice to the operation of section 34(3) and (4)), knowingly permits the use of, or uses, in connection with his business or profession ——

    (i) the description “registered social worker”or“註冊社會工作者”;

    (ii)  the initials“R.S.W.”;

    (iii) the description “social work” or “社會工作” or “social worker” or “社會工作者” or “社工”;or

    (iv)any initials or abbreviations of words intended to cause, or which may reasonably cause, any person to believe that the person using the initials or abbreviations, as the case may be, is on the Register;

    (i) not being on the Register, advertises or represents himself as a registered social worker or knowingly permits himself to be so advertised or represented;

    commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 5 and, in the case of paragraph (c), (d), (e) or (f), to imprisonment for 1 year.

    According to the current legislation, a fine at level 5 is equivalent to HK$50,000.

    Examples of suspected illegal activities

    In reviewing past cases of re-registration applications, the Board has found that some individuals have allegedly continued to use the social work title even after their name was removed from the Register. For example, some re-registration applicants were found to have their names still displayed on the websites, showing their position as "social worker" or a related title. Upon further investigation, the Board found that most of these individuals had already left their respective organizations, but their former employers had not updated the titles on their websites.

    Please note that under Section 35(i) of the Ordinance, a person who is "not being on the Register, advertises or represents himself as a registered social worker or knowingly permits himself to be so advertised or represented;commits an offence". Therefore, if a registered social worker plans not to renew their registration after leaving their job position, they should notify their employer and/or partners to update their records and website information, to avoid inadvertently misusing the social work title.

    Additionally, some individuals have continued displaying the social worker title on their social media profiles or using the title when interviewed by the media, even after their name was removed from the Register. Such act might also constitute an offence.

    2. Regarding forgetting username and password of the Online System

    To facilitate registered social workers (“RSWs”) in submitting their registration renewal applications and fees more conveniently and securely, the Board implemented an Online Registration System some years ago, and provided login credentials to all RSWs via written correspondence. After the initial login, RSWs can use the system to handle various registration-related matters, such as applying for renewal of registration, notifying changes to personal particulars, and reporting charge and conviction records.
    If an RSW wishes to use the online registration system but has forgotten their username and/or password, please follow the steps below:

    1. Click“Current RSWs obtain username and password”at the login page (

    2. If the RSW has forgotten the login password, but has previously provided an email address to the Board, the RSW can immediately retrieve the login password by submitting the online form of "Email address already provided to the Board".

    3. If the RSW has not previously provided an email address to the Board, or have forgotten the username for logging in, the RSW will need to submit the online form "Email address not yet provided to the Board or username forgotten". Through this form, the Board will mail your login information to you by post.

    Work Reports

    1. Editing progress of the second series of Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiries

    The Editorial Sub-committee responsible for compiling the Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiries has completed the initial draft of the entire publication and has submitted it to the Committee on Professional Conduct for review.

    2. Qualification Recognition Assessments and Reviews

    According to the Ordinance, unless meeting other requirements, registered social workers must hold a recognised degree or diploma in social work by the Board. Therefore, the Board has the responsibility to assess social work qualifications and decide whether to grant recognition for registration. In the 2023-2024 academic year, the Board conducted accreditation assessments or reviews for 6 social work qualifications.

    3. Nomination of Assessment Panel Members

    Any tertiary institution that wishes to confer a qualification in social work recognized by the Board must undergo qualification recognition assessment and regular review by an independent Assessment Team. The current term of the Assessment Panel will expire at the end of August this year. The Board had previously conducted an open nomination process and is currently vetting the qualifications of the nominees. After formally appointing the new panel, the Board will publish the list on its website.

    4. Preparation of Election of Board Members

    According to the Ordinance, the Board is composed of 15 members with tenure of office for 3 years of each term, of which 8 members must be registered social workers and are elected by registered social workers. The tenure of office of members of this term will end on 15 January 2025, and the Board has begun the preparation work for the election of members for the next term.

    5. Social Work Day

    The International Federation of Social Workers designates the third Tuesday of March every year as "International Social Work Day". This year's International Social Work Day falls on 19 March 2024. The Hong Kong Social Workers' Association has formed the Social Work Day (Hong Kong) 2024 Organizing Committee in collaboration with several local universities, the Hong Kong Council of Social Services and the Board. Social Work Day (Hong Kong) 2024 adopts the theme "承先啟後見朝陽" and will organize a series of events to enhance public understanding of the roles and functions of social workers as well as promote the professional image of social work.

    6. Promotion Work

    During the last half-year, staff of the Board Office introduced the work of the Board to the social work students of 10 local institutions through online or physical visits:

    • UOW College Hong Kong (80 persons)
    • Caritas Institute of Higher Education (250 persons)
    • Hong Kong College of Technology (80 persons)
    • Hong Kong Baptist University (30 persons)
    • Gratia Christian College (50 persons)
    • The Chinese University of Hong Kong (50 persons)
    • The University of Hong Kong (60 persons)
    • Hong Kong Nang Yan College (35 persons)
    • Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Sha Tin) of the Vocational Training Council (60 persons)
    • The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (50 persons)
    Total:745 persons

    Sharing of Complaint Case


    The Social Workers Registration Board ("the Board") previously appointed a Disciplinary Committee to inquire into a complaint. After inquiry, the Disciplinary Committee ruled the allegation against the social worker being complained ("Social Worker A") was established, and recommended that the Board issued a disciplinary order under section 30(1)(b) of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance ("the Ordinance"), i.e. order the Registrar to remove the name of the respondent from the Register for 3 months. The Disciplinary Committee also made an additional recommendation that, without disclosing the sensitive information and identities of the parties and organization involved in the case, a summary of the case be published in the Board's electronic Newsletter for educational purposes. The Board endorsed the recommendations made by the Disciplinary Committee. Now with reference to the above requirements and the excerpt approach of case examples in Rethinking Social Work Professional Ethics - A Casebook of Disciplinary Inquiry Cases, the case with relevant sensitive information and identities hidden is excerpted below.

    Case Summary

    The complainant and the respondent ("Social Worker A") were both staff members of a particular social service centre. During the incident, Social Worker A was providing services to one service user A (“Service User A”), and the said services were part of a government subsidy scheme whereby the beneficiary had to fulfill certain conditions in order to receive the subsidy. If the beneficiary did not fulfill these conditions, an application for exemption would need to be made through the centre to the relevant government department in order to continue receiving the subsidy.

    On a certain day, Social Worker A met with Service User A, as Service User A had not fulfilled the conditions of receiving the subsidy. Therefore, both parties agreed that Service User A would falsely report having worked on certain days in the exemption application documents, thereby qualifying for an exemption from fulfilling the conditions of receiving the subsidy. Social Worker A then signed as a witness and/or confirmed certain documents. The following day, Social Worker A followed up with the relevant government department on behalf of Service User A to amend Service User A's records.
    Subsequently, Social Worker A admitted to the complainant and his/her supervisor that they had agreed with Service User A to falsely report information. Upon investigation, the centre confirmed the matter. Therefore, the complainant believed that Social Worker A had committed fraud or was unfaithful in their conduct, committing misconduct or neglect in professional respect. As such, a complaint was made to the Board.

    Content of the Complaint

    This complaint alleged that Social Worker A committed misconduct or neglect in professional respect, which if proven, might violate section 25(1)(a) of the Social Workers Registration Ordinance. The allegation of this case was briefly described below: 

    Social Worker A agreed with Service User A to falsely report information

    1. On a certain day, Social Worker A met with Service User A. As Service User A had not fulfilled the conditions of receiving the subsidy, both parties agreed that Service User A would falsely report having worked on certain days in the application for exemption documents, thereby qualifying for an exemption from fulfilling the conditions of receiving the subsidy. Social Worker A then signed as a witness and/or confirmed certain documents.

    2. On the same day, Social Worker A also signed a separate confirmation document for Service User A.

    3. The following day, Social Worker A followed up with the relevant government department through completing and signing a document to amend Service User A's records on behalf of Service User A.

    Approximately one month after the incident, Social Worker A admitted to the complainant and supervisor that he had agreed with Service User A to submit falsely reported working hours information.

    The Consequences

    Findings and Recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee

    1. Social Worker A did not dispute the three incidents described in the complaints and admitted to the alleged conduct. 

    2. Social Worker A explained that truthful reporting would impact the amount of subsidy received by Service User A and potentially his whole family. As Social Worker A had been closely following Service User A's case, he did not want him to become disheartened and lose motivation for work due to this. Therefore, in a moment of impulsiveness, Social Worker A proposed to Service User A to over-report some working days. 

    3. Social Worker A stated that upon learning of the complaint received by the centre, he voluntarily confessed to the centre and cooperated with the investigation. He also reflected on the incident constantly since then and acknowledged that his decision did not help Service User A but impeded the improvement of Service User A. He deeply regretted that his conduct could impact Service User A's view on social workers and cause Service User A to believe that social workers would resort to any means to achieve goals. 

    4. The complainant confirmed to the Disciplinary Committee that false reporting did not bring Social Worker A any tangible benefits. The false information reported by Social Worker A and Service User A had also been withdrawn and amended, thus causing no actual loss to the centre or public funds. 

    5. The Disciplinary Committee was satisfied Allegations 1, 2 and 3 were true. In considering whether such conducts were misconduct or neglect in professional respect under section 25(1)(a) of the Ordinance, the Committee was of the view that: 

    a. False reporting constituted dishonest conduct of extremely serious nature in the social work profession; 

    b. They agreed with Social Worker A's reflection that false reporting did not truly help Service User A but deprived him of independent progression. Such situation was highly undesirable from the professional’s perspective; and 

    c. They were inclined to believe that Social Worker A did not premeditate nor for personal gains but made a foolish decision. Deliberately making a false report to resolve issues was an intentional act and thus such act was professional misconduct rather than mere neglect. 

    6. For the above reasons, the Disciplinary Committee unanimously ruled Social Worker A's conduct amounted to professional misconduct in breach of section 25(1)(a) of the Ordinance. 

    7. For the established complaint, the Disciplinary Committee decided to recommend the Board to issue a disciplinary order that order the Registrar to remove the name of the social worker from the Register for a period as the Board thinks fit. The Disciplinary Committee suggested such suitable period to be between 1 to 3 months.

    Decision of the Board

    The Board accepted all the recommendations made by the Disciplinary Committee. It decided to issue a disciplinary order under section 30(1)(b) of the Ordinance, i.e. order the Registrar to remove the name of the social worker from the Register for 3 months.

    Discussion Issues

    1. The importance of integrity

    This case concerns integrity and how social workers can make professional judgements on the basis of balancing service users' interests and proper use of social resources, with an honest and trustworthy attitude.

    2. A social worker's awareness of legal compliance

    In this case, in addition to professional misconduct, would Social Worker A's actions constitute a violation of the law and result in a criminal conviction?


    1. Integrity of social workers

    According to section 37 of the Code of Practice for Registered Social Workers, "Social workers should maintain honesty, integrity and responsibility in professional practice. " Furthermore, section 37.2 of the Guidelines on Code of Practice stipulates that "Social workers should inform concerned parties of all necessary details of the situation without withholding important information, falsifying or selectively presenting information to purposely deceive or mislead the parties concerned to make uninformed decisions." In this case, Social Worker A not only attempted to deceive important information regarding Service User A, but also advised Service User A to fabricate information with the intention to mislead the relevant government department into disbursing subsidies. This clearly violates the Code of Practice for Registered Social Workers.

    Social workers play the dual roles of advocating for the welfare of vulnerable groups while also being stewards of public resources. Therefore, integrity is extremely important for social workers. However, in this case, Social Worker A evidently only considered the feelings and needs of Service User A and their family from a micro perspective without weighing how public resources could best be utilized from a macro viewpoint. As such, an inappropriate professional judgment was made. When exercising judgment, social workers must balance the needs of the vulnerable population as a whole, rather than sympathizing with an individual case and resorting to unlawful means to deprive others of deserved resources.

    Furthermore, social work emphasizes values of social justice and creating a fair and equitable societal environment. Yet in this case, Social Worker A took the lead in advising Service User A to fraudulently obtain public resources through unfair deceitful tactics. Without upholding one's own integrity, how could a social worker set an exemplary role and effectively advocate for fairness and justice?

    In addition, social work focuses on a process-based approach in assisting service users to grow. Similar to Social Worker A's own reflection, using deceitful tactics to obtain benefits for the service user impeded their development. Even if Social Worker A successfully defrauded subsidies for Service User A this time, it could only provide short-term assistance while potentially encouraging the user to persist in expecting to get away with improper conduct through willful blindness, or even violate the law. A more appropriate approach would be for Social Worker A to truthfully report the situation and assist the service user in explaining matters and applying for exemption to relevant authorities, or exploring other social resources for assistance.

    Therefore, in similar incidents, the values upheld by social workers are crucial. By maintaining integrity and prioritizing the genuine interests of service users, social workers would neither intentionally propose misleading tactics, nor cooperate with others to obtain benefits through deception.

    2. Social worker's awareness of legal compliance

    Rule of law is a crucial foundation for maintaining social stability. Therefore, in performing their duties, social workers must not only uphold integrity but also consistently adhere to an awareness of legal compliance so as to avoid facing serious consequences due to unintentional unlawful acts. In this case, Social Worker A's actions not only jeopardized Service User A's eligibility for subsidies, but Social Worker A and Service User A might also be implicated in the offence of fraud. According to section 16A of the Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210), the maximum penalty for fraud is imprisonment for 14 years. As such, social workers cannot use momentary impulsiveness as an excuse to make false statements just for the temporary convenience of service users, leading to detrimental outcomes for oneself and others.

    Moreover, had the centre not withdrawn the falsely reported documents in this case, Social Worker A and Service User A would likely face more severe consequences for their conduct.


    (As at 10/4/2024) 

    Total Number of RSWs27,853

    Gender Distribution
    Male:8,821 (31%)
    Female:19,092 (69%)

    Qualification for Registration
    Recognized degree:19,164 (68.80%)
    Recognized diploma:8,628 (30.98%)
    Others:61 (0.22%)

    Statistics on Complaint Cases (since establishment)
    Total Complaint Cases received:763
    Total Cases for Disciplinary Inquiry:165
    Total Established Cases:44

    Note:As some cases are still in the preliminary stage or disciplinary proceedings, the above figures are not expressed in proportion. 

    Articles contributed by RSWs
    (The language of the article is published according to the original manuscript, no translated version is provided.)




    社工的價值觀與個體的價值觀可能有所不同,原則也不是一定能通用在每個情境。每個人都深受自身的家庭、社會、宗教、國家的意識形態所成長。因此,社工更需要了解自己,知道自己的偏見,避免偏見發生在服務使用者身上。所謂的標準答案是基於社工的經驗及道德價值觀而判斷。倫理的兩難在社工的專業是必然遇見。我認為更重要的是分析倫理兩難的過程中,抱著自我批判的模式地思辨整個過程,並非單靠過去的經驗將情境系統化。每一次處理兩難個案的經驗會加強社工對處理方法變得「理所當然」. 當處理方法變得「理所當然」便失去平衡. 德行為本的倫理是指根據良好的個人品格及美德作為動機,以及對於人的關懷與真誠的回應(Banks, 2020)。道德的行動是感性及理性的判斷,不能單以原則道德作為判斷。社工面對的不是機械人,而是一個個活生生的個案。故此,社工還需要考慮以德行為本的倫理作為一個平衡點,加以反思及批判倫理兩難的過程。

    Banks, S. (2020). Ethics and values in social work. Bloomsbury Publishing.

    Submission Guidelines for Registered Social Workers 

    To allow RSWs to express their views on social work profession, the Board welcomes submissions from fellow workers. When submitting, please pay attention to the following regulations:

    1. Submissions should be related to the functions of the Board or the social work profession. 

    2. Submissions do not represent the position of the Board, and the author bears the responsibility for the content. 

    3. Submitters must be registered social workers and must provide their real name, mailing address, email, and contact phone number. Submitters may request not to publish their real name. 

    4. Submissions can be written in Chinese or English, with a limit of 2000 Chinese characters or 1500 English words. 

    5. The Board has the sole discretion to decide whether to publish submissions or not. 

    6. The Board has the final editorial rights. 

    7. The Board will not provide any form of remuneration to submitters.

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