TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
Social Work and Social Services professionals in Ontario are regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (“OCSWSSW”). All the requirements for social workers and social service professionals are outlined in the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998, it’s regulations, and the OCSWSSW’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. The OCSWSSW’s mandate is to protect the public from unqualified, incompetent and unfit practitioners. To achieve this, the OCSWSSW requires individuals meet certain criteria and apply for registration.
Without registration, it is an offence for an individual to call themselves a social worker or hold out to produce social worker services.
Burokas Law acts as a social worker lawyer in representing individuals from providing general application advice to defending administrative actions. Specifically Burokas Law will act to:
The OCSWSSW offers registration for social service workers and social workers. They employ an individual called a “Registrar” who is given great administrative powers to determine whether an applicant should be registered, remain registered, or have their registration suspended. Both professions are similarly defined by the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 as a person who assess and treats individual, interpersonal, and societal problems. The only difference between the two is that social workers also diagnose. After completing all requisite education and examination for their respective profession, an applicant must meet the following criteria to be entitled to registration:
The Registrar will refuse to issue a certificate of registration if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the above noted requirements have not been met or that the past conduct of an applicant affords grounds for the belief that they will not perform their duties in accordance with the law.
Notice of Proposal
If the Registrar decides to refuse an application impose conditions on a registration that are not consented to by the applicant, the Registrar will issue a Notice of Proposal to refuse the registration or a Notice of Proposal to impose conditions on a registration. This notice will provide written reasons of why the relevant proposal is sought. The applicant may request a review of this decision within 60 days and make their own submissions as to why they believe the Registrar is mistaken.
Registration Appeals Committee
The Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998, establishes a Registration Appeals Committee to review of proposals to refuse. The applicant will have an opportunity to examine and make written submissions on any document relevant to the review. After reviewing the submissions, the committee will order that the applicant be registered with or without conditions, or refuse to issue a registration. Although the Registration Appeals Committee does not hold formal hearings where evidence is called, it provides an extremely valuable opportunity to provide the applicant’s perspective to any issues they may have with an applicant.
Once Registered, the Social Work and Social Service Work Act prescribes the following mandatory conditions on social or social services worker registrant:
Complaints and Discipline
The Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 has a regulation titled “Professional Misconduct” that includes a lengthy list of conduct that are considered by the OCSWSSW to be professional misconduct that, if proven, will bring a registrant to the complaints and discipline committee and threaten their registration. A complete list can be found in Ontario regulation 384/00.
The Registrar has the power under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, to appoint investigators to investigate matters, if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe:
The investigator will investigate the matter, including enter places of work, examine relevant documents, and file a report with the relevant committee. Like police officers, they may apply for search warrants empowering them to enter buildings and seize documents.
The Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 establishes a Complaints Committee that considers and investigates bona fide complaints of professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity of a registrant. The committee can refer the complaint to alternative dispute resolution and either adopt any proposed resolution (ending the complaint) or continue to investigate. Otherwise, the Complaints Committee can do the following:
The complaints committee does not conduct hearings where evidence is heard but does allow both parties to the complaint to make submissions on their position.
Council or Executive Committee
Council is the OCSWSSW’s governing body. They create policy and help direct the college to fulfill their mandate. The Executive Committee receives delegated powers from council and runs the OCSWSSW on a day to day basis. Both Council and the Executive Committee may direct the Discipline Committee to hold hearing to determine allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence. They also refer fitness concerns to the Fitness to Practise Committee. Both bodies can suspend the members.
The Discipline Committee hears referrals from the Complaints Committee, Executive Committee, and Council in regards to allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence. It also hears requests for reinstatement from individuals and corporations who previously had their registration suspended or revoked by the Discipline Committee.
The Discipline Committee conducts hearings into whether a registrant committed professional misconduct or is incompetent. This involves hearing each parties’ oral and/or documentary evidence and the opposing parties’ challenge to that evidence. The Discipline Committee will make “findings of fact”, meaning they decide whether something did or did not happen, and then apply the finding to the applicable law. Their proceedings are generally open to the public. After a hearing, the Discipline Committee will find a registrant to be incompetent if, in their professional responsibilities, have displayed a lack of knowledge, skill, judgement, or disregard for the welfare of people to the extent that they are unfit.
If the Discipline Committee finds a member guilty of professional misconduct or incompetent, it will do one or more of the following:
Fitness to Practice Committee
The Fitness to Practise Committee hears referrals from other committees and Council regarding the capacity of a registrant. After a hearing, this committee may find a registrant incapacitated if, in its opinion, the registrant is suffering from a physical or mental condition that leaves them unfit to perform their professional duties or they require conditions on their registration. If the committee finds incapacity, they may:
Conditions on Consent
It is very common for conditions to be attached to a licence.They often arise in situations where the Registrar has some concerns with an applicant or licensee, but they do not rise to the level of initiating or continuing with an administrative action. Such conditions may impose restrictions on conduct or simply reiterate obligations already mandated by the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998, and it’s regulations. Conditions can be either imposed by the Registration Appeals Committee as outcome of a hearing, ordered as part of a resolution, or consented to by the applicant/licensee.
The Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 creates multiple offences related to individuals who avoid registration while practicing in social work. Specifically, it is an offence to:
If an individual or corporation is charged with one of these offences, the matter will be heard in the Ontario Court of Justice where a trial will be held. Any conviction under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998, will severely prejudice an individual’s ability to obtain or preserve registration.
If you are a Social Worker of Social Service Professional in need of assistance with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Professionals, please contact Burokas Law