20 Mar 2020

COVID-19 Recommendations for Social Workers and Social Service Workers

The College continues to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and is providing additional guidance to support its members and protect the public. Governments at all levels and Canada’s public health experts are strongly encouraging the use of widespread social distancing.

At this time, we are strongly recommending that College members consider suspending all non-essential social work and social service work services until further notice.

Members are advised to use their professional judgment to determine which services are essential. This determination will depend on their employment setting, as well as the sector and/or clients that they serve. We encourage members to engage in discussions with their employer or organization to which they provide services, if they have not already done so, in order to:

  • determine which services are considered essential/non-essential; and
  • develop appropriate plans to serve those in need.

The decision to suspend non-essential services

Members who are uncertain about how to proceed are advised to consider the following:

  • Members’ safety, as well as that of their clients and the general public, are of utmost importance. If members must be in direct contact with clients, they should ensure that they are following the health and safety protocols recommended by government and public health authorities below. Members who have questions about how to provide services safely should speak to their employer and/or contact Public Health. We recommend members to visit the following websites regularly for more information:
  • If members determine that their services are non-essential, they should contact clients to inform them that appointments will be delayed and rescheduled at a later date. They should also provide options for alternate service providers and/or methods of service delivery to ensure that clients have access to services, should they be required, in accordance with the College’s Standards of Practice[1].

Providing services by electronic means

In the current crisis, members may wish to consider options for providing services by electronic means – through the use of any electronic device (including a computer, tablet, smartphone or landline) or any electronic format (including the Internet, social media, online chat, text, video, or email).

Before doing so, members must ensure that they are competent to provide such services. They should also consider a number of other important factors, including security and privacy, which are addressed in the following College resources:

Providing services to clients outside Ontario

Members who are considering the provision of services to clients who are outside of Ontario should contact the regulatory body where the client is located to determine the regulatory requirements in that jurisdiction.

The College continues to advise members in this situation to obtain legal advice and contact their professional liability insurance provider before providing services.

Protecting our members and the Ontario public

We believe that these recommendations are in the best interests of College members, their clients and the public and align with recent recommendations from all levels of government with respect to social distancing. We are committed to providing support to our members as part of our ongoing mandate of public protection during these unprecedented times.

Future updates

The College will continue to monitor rapidly evolving developments related to COVID-19. Please visit the College’s COVID-19 Updates webpage and Twitter account regularly for updates and further communications as circumstances change.

Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO


[1] OCSWSSW, The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, Principle III, Responsibility to Clients, interpretation 3.9