The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College) has been made aware that the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) has issued a formal statement expressing their opposition to the College’s decision to implement entry-to-practice exams. Please see the College’s response to the CASWE statement below.
Jason Albert, CASWE-ACFTS Interim President and
Carole Carpot, CASWE-ACFTS Executive Director
May 29, 2023
Dear Jason and Carole:
We are writing as Council Chair and Registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) to express our deep concerns around CASWE’s recent decision to issue a statement regarding entry-to-practice exams. We have valued for many years our strong and mutually respectful relationship with the CASWE. We were therefore extremely disappointed to learn, indirectly, that you had taken a public position with respect to a regulatory decision and encouraged your members to sign a petition opposing that decision without first alerting or engaging in discussions with the OCSWSSW.
Given the important role that our registrants play in providing essential health and mental health services, and the significant potential for (and egregious examples of) serious harm to clients in the practice of the social work and social service work professions, the OCSWSSW must take all available steps to ensure competence at entry to practice. Regulators of most professions across Canada and the United States recognize that no one registration requirement is, on its own, adequate to protect the public; while entry-to-practice exams – and a multiple-choice format – are not perfect, they do provide an essential tool which, in addition to educational requirements, reduces the risk of harm to the patients and clients served by regulated professionals.
Like the CASWE, we were deeply troubled by the historical disparities in exam pass rates for racialized candidates, as highlighted in the ASWB’s Exam Pass Rate Analysis published in August 2022. We believe that it is crucial to identify and address these disparities as a necessary first step in developing and implementing appropriate solutions across the social work profession and measuring progress in relation to what is a very complex issue. The exam pass rate data provides an important benchmark; it also highlights a larger structural and systemic issue that extends far beyond the exam, the OCSWSSW and the ASWB. As we have previously indicated, meaningful solutions will require efforts on the part of many stakeholders – including accreditation bodies such as the CASWE, regulators, associations, social work and social service work programs, employers and others.
We must emphasize that the exams that are currently in place, to which the data relates, are not the versions that the College will be using; there is a long runway to implementation of entry-to-practice exams in Ontario. It is, in our view, premature, counterproductive and damaging to our relationship and other relationships within the sector to take a public position, at this time, on a decided regulatory matter- not a “proposed” decision, as the CASWE statement erroneously suggests.
The OCSWSSW continues to work in collaboration with the ASWB and other Canadian social work regulators toward the development of the versions of the exams that we will eventually use. We are confident that the ASWB is committed to addressing the complex and systemic issues surrounding entry- to-practice exams and has already made progress.
The OCSWSSW recognizes that advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and addressing systemic racism and discrimination are important parts of its public protection mandate. While we cannot single-handedly respond to these issues, we remain committed to doing whatever we can within our regulatory role.
We value open dialogue and cooperation among the pillars of the social work profession, but this must happen in an environment of mutual respect for roles. To that end, we would like to invite the CASWE to meet with the OCSWSSW and the ASWB as we work toward a more collaborative, intersectoral approach to the eventual implementation of new versions of the entry-to-practice exams in Ontario.
While all OCSWSSW decisions must be grounded in our mandate to protect the public interest, we recognize that each of our organizations has an important and distinct role in ensuring that social workers in Ontario practise safely, ethically and professionally. Please contact Lise at email@example.com if you are interested in a meeting to discuss this further.
John E. Fleming
Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO