School-based social work programmes

We provide school-based social work services for children across the country, where social or family circumstances are causing them to struggle with their education.


Social and youth workers in schools

There are three school-based community social work services.

These services provide early assistance and intervention to children or tamariki and their families or whānau when social or family circumstances are causing the child to struggle with education, health, mental health or social development. The aim is to see safe, healthy and socialised children or tamariki with a strong sense of identity, who are fully engaged in school.

Referrals can be made by the children or family themselves, the school, or community or government agencies. Referrals need the consent of the family or whānau, as the service can only be successful with the family’s willing participation and engagement.

Social workers are employed by NGO social service providers. They work in partnership with school staff, as part of the school community.

All three Services in Schools (Te Hunga Tauwhiro i te Kura and Tauwhiro Taiohi) are for children or tamariki and young people or rangatahi:

  • who have poor engagement in school as a result of social problems
  • with social or behavioural problems
  • experiencing grief or loss
  • who are from families or whānau who may be struggling financially, or with issues such as overcrowding, family violence, drug and alcohol, etc.
  • from at-risk families or whānau, including those who have been referred by Oranga Tamariki for community-based support.

For more information:

Providers: For more information or to request additional resources - please contact your Oranga Tamariki, Māori, Partnerships and Communities regional advisor.

Also see copies of our Service Specifications and Partnering Agreements

Parents or other school based professionals: Contact your school.

Principals: Contact your Ministry of Education regional advisor.

Resources for providers

Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) manual

Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) manual  [PDF, 2.3 MB] (for SWiS, YWiSS and MASSiSS providers) 

The manual includes:

  • an overview of what the SDQ is, how it works, and why we are using it
  • a step-by-step guide on using the SDQscore website (including registration instructions)
  • reporting processes
  • frequently asked questions.

SDQ postcards

There are two postcards available to help guide korero on finishing the SDQ.

Postcards have Te Reo Māori on one side and English on the other. There is also a Samoan/English version. Additionally, there is a bi-lingual postcard explaining the use of the SDQ by all three services in Schools in relation to its usage within Health (WellChild) and Education (Gateway) programmes. 

Contact your Māori, Partnerships and Communities advisor to arrange for copies to be sent to you (free of charge).

SWiS reporting guide

A short (2-page) step-by-step guide to the SWiS reporting process:

SWiS reporting guide - getting the most out of reporting [PDF, 268 KB]

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for working with non-contracted schools

Transfers and transitions

Sometimes clients will move to another region of New Zealand or transition from primary/intermediate to high school.

The following links to the Family Services Directory provide a list of SWiS, MASSiSS and YWiSS providers to coordinate transfers/transitions with.

Use the location filters to find service providers in the areas you are looking for. 

View SWiS providers on the Family Service Directory

View MASSiSS providers on the Family Service Directory

View YWiSS providers on the Family Service Directory

The information in the Family Services Directory can also be used to coordinate regional hui with local service providers.

Published: March 13, 2017 · Updated: July 19, 2022