The College’s mandate is to protect the public from unqualified, incompetent and unfit practitioners. One of the ways the College fulfills this mandate is to consider and investigate complaints made by the public regarding the alleged conduct of College members. And though it may feel daunting or upsetting to find out that someone has made a complaint against you, the College ensures that due processes are in place, upholding fairness and maintaining transparency for all parties involved.
Here are answers to commonly asked questions that members have about the complaints process:
Are all complaints investigated?
The College must investigate every complaint, with limited exceptions. Some examples of where the College may decide not to investigate a complaint include complaints that are about practice concerns that happened before the professional was a member of the College or where the complaint does not relate to the practice of social work or social service work – for example, a complaint about a member who also happens to be a landlord.
How will I know if someone has made a complaint against me?
You will receive a written notification from the College if someone files a complaint against you.
Do I need a lawyer?
The College strongly recommends you retain the services of a lawyer. If you are a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers or the Ontario Social Service Worker Association, you may want to contact them for assistance in obtaining a lawyer.
Am I given an opportunity to respond to the complaint?
Yes. It is strongly recommended that you provide your account of the allegations in the complaint to the College. This way, the Complaints Committee will have all relevant information needed when making their decision.
Once I respond to the complaint, will I be required to share confidential client information?
In order to respond to the complaint, you may need to share confidential client information. As set out in Principle V, section 5.3.2 of the Standards of Practice, you are allowed to share confidential client information with the College to defend yourself against a complaint. In doing so, College members should not divulge more information than is reasonably required.
Will the complaint be made public?
No. Complaints made against College members are not made public or noted on the Online Register. If the Complaints Committee refers your complaint to the Discipline Committee, a notation regarding the allegations that were referred will be posted on the College website and Online Register.
Is the complaints process confidential?
Yes. Except for allegations referred to the Discipline Committee as noted above, the details and information gathered in the course of a complaint investigation are confidential to the complaints process.
How long does the investigation process take?
The College makes best efforts to complete investigations in a timely manner. Generally, the process can take from six months to a year to get before the Complaints Committee for review. However, there are a number of factors that may impact the time it takes for the College to complete an investigation – for example, a delay in receiving documents from third parties or the volume of complaints received at any given time by the College. To learn more about what can further delay the investigation process, please visit the College website.
What are the possible outcomes of a complaint?
Once the investigation is complete, it is reviewed by the Complaints Committee, who will decide on an appropriate course of action. This may include:
- Taking no action with respect to the complaint.
- Providing advice to the member with the goal of remediating their practice going forward.
- Requiring the member to appear before a panel of the Complaints Committee to be cautioned.
- Referring the matter to the Discipline Committee or Fitness to Practise Committee for a hearing.
For more information about the College’s complaints process, visit the following webpages:
- Complaints Process – What Members Need to Know
- Complaints and Discipline
- Complaints Committee
- Complaints Guide
- Fitness to Practise
College members with any complaint-related questions can contact the Complaints and Discipline Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.