14 Dec 2020

College Response to the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee Report – December 2020

The Office of the Chief Coroner has notified the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College) of the results of a review by the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) and sought the College’s support in implementing one of its recommendations. The College intends to address the DVDRC’s recommendation by:

  • Sharing the findings of the DVDRC with members.
  • Reminding members of their professional obligations with respect to competence, currency and scope of practice – particularly in recognizing the risk of domestic homicide for victims of domestic violence.

The DVDRC Report

The DVDRC’s findings are published in the Report on the Matter of the Deaths of (names removed) (DVDRC’s Report). The deaths referred to in the DVDRC’s Report occurred on April 7th, 2017.

In a letter accompanying the DVDRC Report, the DVDRC describes its primary goals for the review as follows:

The purpose of this Committee is to assist the Office of the Chief Coroner in the investigation and review of deaths of persons that occur as result of domestic violence, and to make recommendations to help prevent such deaths in similar circumstances.

By conducting a thorough and detailed examination and analysis of facts within individual cases, the DVDRC strives to develop a comprehensive understanding of why domestic homicides occur and how they might be prevented. Information considered within this examination includes the history, circumstances and conduct of the abusers/perpetrators, the victims and their respective families. Community and systemic responses are examined to determine primary risk factors and to identify possible points of intervention that could assist in the prevention of similar deaths in the future.

Recommendation #3 of the DVDRC Report is directed specifically at the College. It suggests that:

Social workers should recognize the risk of domestic homicide for victims of domestic violence. Members should be mandated to complete a risk assessment when clients disclose violence and provide safety planning. Training should be offered to members to increase awareness and skills to appropriately address domestic violence when disclosed by clients. For social workers [and social service workers] without training or competence in this area, they should refer victims to others who can provide appropriate risk assessment and safety planning services.

Members’ professional obligations

To support the DVDRC’s recommendation, the College is providing the DVDRC’s Report to all members. Members are reminded of their obligation, in accordance with The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, to provide services only within the boundaries of their competence. Principle II: Competence and Integrity, Interpretation 2.1.1 states:

College members are responsible for being aware of the extent and parameters of their competence and their professional scope of practice and limit their practice accordingly. When a client’s needs fall outside the College member’s usual area of practice, the member informs the client of the option to be referred to another professional. If, however, the client wishes to continue the professional relationship with the College member and have the member provide the service, the member may do so provided that:

    • he or she ensures that the services he or she provides are competently provided by seeking additional supervision, consultation and/or education and
    • the services are not beyond the member’s professional scope of practice.

Recommendations for particular services, referrals to other professionals or a continuation of the professional relationship are guided by the client’s interests as well as the College member’s judgement and knowledge.

The Standards of Practice also require members to maintain their competence and engage in continuing professional development in the areas in which they provide services. Members can achieve this by:

  • Participating in ongoing continuing education and the Continuing Competence Program (CCP) in order to remain current with emerging practice knowledge.
  • Maintaining current knowledge of policies, legislation, community programs and issues related to practice.
  • Ensuring that their professional recommendations or opinions are based on current, credible sources and evidence.
  • Engaging in an ongoing process of self-review and evaluation of practice, and seeking consultation when required.

All areas of social work and social service work practice require a comprehensive knowledge base, effective and professional use of self, and mastery of specific skills. Members’ knowledge and self-awareness are critical to ethical and professional practice. When assessing their competence, members should:

  • Consider their levels of education, training, and experience.
  • Explore practice challenges within the context of supervision.
  • Participate in the CCP.
  • Use the CCP to focus on the skills and knowledge required for new activities or areas of practice.

Members working with clients who disclose domestic violence should also:

  • Recognize the risk of domestic homicide for victims of domestic violence.
  • Ensure that they have the competence required to complete intimate partner homicide risk assessments and develop client safety plans.

For more information:

For further information, please contact the Professional Practice Department at practice@ocswssw.org.