Council Member Podcast Series – Former Council member Shelley Hale, RSSW

Podcast transcript

OCSWSSW: The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers is pleased to interview Shelley Hale for its Council podcast series. Shelley is an elected social service work member of the College Council, who previously served on Council for its first 10 years and was reelected in 2016. She currently chairs Council’s Registration Appeals Committee, and serves on its Executive and Standards of Practice Committees. She served as President of the College Council from 2017 to 2019. Thank you for joining us today, Shelley.

SHELLEY HALE: Thanks for having me, John.

OCSWSSW: Can you begin by telling us why you wanted to become a Council member?

SHELLEY HALE: Sure. 20 years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing to be completely honest with you. And I wasn’t sure of my “why,” but now I have pretty solid appreciation for the role of regulatory bodies and the mandate of public protection that the College is required to uphold. I choose to be a Council member, this part of my adventure with the College because I value our privilege of self-regulation, and I want to contribute to the work of the College and ensure that we do uphold our mandate of public protection for the people of Ontario. And I really think it’s important that we contribute to the work of the College so that we can maintain our privilege of self-regulation. On a personal note, I just wanted to contribute to the field. I wanted to be able to give back and to share that it’s extremely rewarding work and I clearly keep coming back.

OCSWSSW: What do you enjoy most about being a Council member? I know you touched a bit on this in your previous answer, but can you elaborate further?

SHELLEY HALE: I really enjoy the learning. 20 years ago I never would’ve thought I would’ve liked legislation and regulations and law, because that’s very much what we’re grounded in. That’s what our work is all grounded and scrubbed in the act. But I love it and it really kind of feeds a different part of my brain, and it also helps me make the connection back to the work that I do in the field and the frontline work. And as I sat on many different committees throughout my time at the College, you just learn a little bit more each time and it kind of blends and builds on the foundation of the work that we do. I also very much enjoy the collegiality, and the time I’ve been on College I’ve got the privilege of working with very different people. There are elections every year so it’s a different team every year that you sit at the Council table, and I really enjoy the balance of social work, social service work, and public members – the very rich discussions at the table.

OCSWSSW: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and journey?

SHELLEY HALE: I’d been working in social services as a teenager throughout high school. And then I went to Algonquin College and the first year they offered the social service worker intensive program and graduated from that, and I continued working in social services. I’ve spent my entire career working in mental health and I love it. Mostly community settings, frontline case management, mental health teams, and then I was an administrator at a mental health organization for a number of years where I got to build programs and teams. I then went back to school in the middle of all of that, and did a BA in social development studies, continued working and then I was afforded the opportunity by my employer to do a master’s. So, I did a master’s in arts leadership with a health specialization. And because I was afforded that opportunity, I was now able to teach. So, it’s really come full circle where now I’m teaching back at the program that I graduated from and helping to shape and form, really just learn from as well, the next generation of social service workers. And it’s really rewarding work. I’m very happy with that.

OCSWSSW: What do you see as some of the challenges facing regulators, such as the College?

SHELLEY HALE: I think one challenge is the awareness and the understanding of self-regulation and what a privilege that really is to our professions, and how important it is to ensure that we do our best to maintain that privilege and to uphold it. I think there’s some confusion still after 20 years within the role of regulatory bodies, such as the College versus associations. So, I think those conversations are important to continue to happen and to be held, and to educate both with our members and the public. I also think communications is something that the College does very well, but I think it’s a challenge and an ongoing challenge because our membership continues to grow.

We’re at about 25,000, 26,000 members right now. Our province is geographically large. The stakeholders that we work with are very diverse. And then there’s always the public communications. So, public awareness campaigns and all of those factors that the College does an excellent job at, but we need to be nimble and we need to make sure that our messaging and the content that we need out there hits all those different audiences in a timely, meaningful way.

OCSWSSW: What do you consider the top two or three things that individuals interested in joining the College Council, I should add, should know?

SHELLEY HALE: I would love to see more people lean into the experience. I would love to see robust elections occurring across every electoral district within the College for both professions. I think it’s important for people to know that it’s a very rewarding experience. It’s sometimes challenging, but you’re going to learn a lot and that you get to contribute back to the field. So, I think there’s real value in the work personally and professionally. I’d also love for people to know that the College team is amazing and supportive, and that you are not alone. Council members, College team members will all be there to help support you in your journey. There’s also a mentoring program that the College operates, and it’s very rewarding to contribute and participate in. So, you’re really not alone as a new Council member.

And the other thing that I think is really important that people may not have a full understanding of is that the Council works as a team. So, the Council is the body that makes the decisions that informs the work of the College. So, you have to be able to really be present at the table and to engage in open, honest, sometimes difficult conversations. But that’s what really helps us make informed decisions. And once those decisions are made, the Council then communicates as a team, always keeping the mandate of the College in the forefront, and the mandate is public protection. The work at the Council table really focuses on that mandate of public protection and not the professions, which I think is important for people to be aware of.

OCSWSSW: Thank you for joining us, Shelley.

SHELLEY HALE: Thanks for having me, John.

OCSWSSW: If you are a registered social worker or registered social service worker and are interested in joining the College Council, please visit our website where you’ll find information on the Council elections, including eligibility requirements and required training.