29 May 2020

Important Update from the Registrar and CEO Regarding In-Person Practice

As the Ontario Government moves forward with its reopening framework, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College) continues to assess the significant impact COVID-19 has on our members and other stakeholders. We recognize that this continues to be an extremely challenging time – both personally and professionally.

Ministry of Health Directive

On May 26, 2020, Ontario’s Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health amended Directive #2 for Health Care Providers as per the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The revised Directive, which replaces the original Directive issued on March 19, 2020, allows health care providers to gradually return to non-urgent, in-person practice.

While it is important to note that this communication from the Ministry of Health was directed to regulated health professionals (those regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act) and does not directly apply to College members, we believe that it is relevant nevertheless.

The revised Directive specifies that health care providers can return to in-person practice provided they adhere to guidance set out by the Ministry of Health in COVID-19 Operational Requirements: Health Sector Restart.

Considerations for social work and social service work practice

As noted most recently in our May 15, 2020 eBulletin, the College continues to strongly advise members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services.

The College cannot decide on behalf of individual members which of their services are essential and/or when it is safe and appropriate for them to resume in-person services. Members must make their own determination, based on:

  • their employment setting;
  • the sector and/or clients that they serve;
  • consultation with their employer and a review of relevant workplace policies; and
  • careful consideration of how safety and infection control measures apply to their practice and setting.

Members must use their professional judgment to determine whether it is appropriate for them to resume in-person services at this time. Members should carefully review the safety and infection control measures that must be in place to ensure their own safety and that of the clients and communities they serve.

While resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. Members are advised to use their professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

Members should consider a number of factors as they decide how and when they will return to in-person practice. We encourage them to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment to this important decision.

Resources for members

All College members should follow guidance from government and public health authorities and apply it to their own sector and setting. We alert members working with organizations and employers to some of the sector-specific resources below and advise them to follow guidance provided by their employer. A number of relevant COVID-19 resources can be found below:

Additional considerations for members in private practice

In the coming week, the College will be sharing additional resources with specific considerations for College members who are working in private practice and deciding when and how to return to providing in-person care and services.

The College continues to provide recommendations that are intended to protect the health and well-being of both members and the Ontario public. As part of our ongoing mandate of public protection, we remain committed to continuing to provide members with information, resources and support during this unprecedented time.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment. Keep well.

Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW

Registrar and CEO