27 Apr 2021

Practice Considerations for Social Workers and Social Service Workers Amidst Third Wave of the Pandemic

The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College) continues to support members in their practice throughout the pandemic. We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact of the third wave of the pandemic on the Ontario public and on College members. Social workers and social service workers practising in hospitals and on health care teams are faced with distinct challenges, both personally and professionally.

We remain committed to communicating regularly with members and other stakeholders in relation to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, through eBulletin and the COVID-19 page on the College website, and to develop practice resources, including COVID-19 FAQs, which address a number of issues raised by members.

Amidst the ongoing third wave of the pandemic, College members should consider the following:

Amended Ministry of Health Directive

On April 20, 2021, Directive #2 for Health Care Providers as per the Health Protection and Promotion Act was amended to include information related to the third wave of COVID-19 and variants of concern.

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

Possible Redeployment and Practice Considerations

Members are reminded of the following information regarding redeployment, which is also available on the College’s centralized COVID-19 page under FAQs.

If College members are redeployed to work in another area of their workplace, what should they consider if they are requested to perform other tasks?

College members must ensure that they are competent before performing a task that has been assigned to them as part of a redeployment.1 Among other things, members should consider:

  • whether they have received adequate training and will receive appropriate supervision to perform the task safely;
  • whether the task is a controlled act under the Regulated Health Professions Act; 2 and
  • whether or not the performance of the task conflicts or is inconsistent with the Standards of Practice.

College members may also wish to contact their professional liability insurance provider, consider relevant legislation, and obtain a legal opinion if necessary.

In some instances, members may feel that they are not prepared to perform a task, even though they have received training. If this is the case, they should raise this concern with their manager or other appropriate person and seek alternate redeployment.

General Practice Considerations

As communicated throughout the pandemic, while some members may be permitted to provide in-person services because of the nature of the services they provide, the College strongly advises all members to continue, wherever reasonably possible, to provide services by electronic means.

Members should also refer to Regulation 82/20 which provides information related to services or businesses that may open, including professionals or organizations that provide in-person counselling services. It is very important to note that there are a number of requirements set out in the Regulation with which all businesses that may open must comply.

Members should ensure that they are familiar with previous College communications regarding:

Members are also advised to consult the College’s practice resources regularly, including:

Staying Informed

The College continues to provide recommendations that are intended to protect the health and well-being of both members and the Ontario public. We remain committed to continuing to provide members with information, resources and support which can be accessed on the College’s centralized webpage.

Thank you for your steadfast commitment to the well-being of the clients and communities that you serve.

Keep well and stay safe.

Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO

  1. OCSWSSW, The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, Principle II: Competence and Integrity, interpretation 2.1.1
  2. Controlled acts are procedures that are considered to pose a risk of harm to clients/patients and in Ontario may only be performed under certain circumstances.