The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers continues to monitor the developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. While the College’s physical office remains closed, we have resumed many regulatory operations remotely.

We thank members and stakeholders for their patience during this challenging time, and encourage them to refer regularly to this webpage for all updates, including frequently asked questions.




Last Updated: 2020-03-31 @ 17:00pm

Frequently Asked Questions

Registration & Membership

Registration

Membership

Professional Practice Support

Impact of COVID-19 on College Operations

Protecting Ontarians


Registration & Membership

Registration

My application for registration with the College is currently being processed. How long will it take before I am registered?

As noted in our March 16 eBulletin, the College has closed its offices until further notice. The current closure means that some College operations and services, including the processing of applications, have been suspended at this time. The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely, but because our application process is paper-based, we will not be able to resume registration services in most instances until the physical offices re-open.

I have a question about the status of my application for registration. Who can I contact?

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations. We encourage you to visit the COVID-19 Updates webpage for updates regarding College operations. Work is underway to resume services remotely as soon as possible. We will be able to respond to inquiries, by email and phone, shortly. While we will do our best to provide you with information as we can, please note that some services, including the processing of applications, will not be available while the College is operating remotely.

I think my application for registration has already been processed. How can I confirm my registration?

As required under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, the College maintains a Register of all members of the College. You can access the Online Register here and search your first and last name to confirm whether or not you’re registered. The Register will also provide you with your registration number. If you are unable to find your name on the Online Register, and if you have further questions, please email the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org. We are gradually restoring core regulatory operations and responding to inquiries will be our priority. While we will do our very best to provide you with updates as they are available, please note that some services, including the processing of applications, will not be available while the College is operating remotely.

I have a general question about applying for registration with the College. Who can help me?

For general information regarding registration, please visit the College’s registration webpages: https://www.ocswssw.org/registration-section/information-for-all-applicants/.


Membership

How can I renew my membership for the year 2020?

If you have not yet renewed your membership for 2020, you can do so through the College’s online member services. To renew your membership online, following these easy steps:

  • Login using your User ID (your OCSWSSW registration number) and your password.
  • Go to “My Profile” to confirm that your personal information is accurate and up to date.
  • Click on the “Renewals” link on the top left-hand side of your screen and select “2020 renewal” to complete the annual renewal of registration form and payment.

How can I request my tax receipts if the College’s office is closed?

Although the College is closed until further notice, you can still access the College’s online members services and print off your tax receipt and member card online following payment of your annual renewal fee. To access your tax receipt and member card, please follow the steps below:

  • Login to your Online Member Services.
  • Click “Renewal Receipts” from the menu.
  • From the Membership Renewal History grid, click on the “Membership card and tax receipt” of the selected Membership Year to open a PDF file that you can print, save or send by email.

I received a notice of intent to suspend my membership. Now that the College is closed, how am I supposed to renew my membership?

Although the College is closed until further notice, you can still access the College’s online members services to renew your membership and pay your annual renewal fee. To renew your membership online, follow these steps:

  • Login using your User ID (your OCSWSSW registration number) and your password.
  • Go to “My Profile” to confirm that your personal information is accurate and up to date.
  • Click on the “Renewals” link on the top left-hand side of your screen and select “2020 renewal” to complete the annual renewal of registration form and payment.

Professional Practice Support

I have a question about my practice. Who can I contact to help me?

The College is currently in the process of restoring its core regulatory operations. Please note that there may be delays in response time as we gradually resume Professional Practice support.

We regret the temporary disruption in Professional Practice support, and we appreciate your patience during this challenging time. Please look for further updates (related to practice and the College’s other regulatory operations) shortly.

What resources are available to help provide guidance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

You may find the following College resources helpful as we all work together to navigate the impacts of ongoing developments related to COVID-19:

Are there any resources that are available to me, as a social work/social service work student, to help continue my online learning in spite of the impact COVID-19 has had on my studies?

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely while continuing to monitor the developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. While the College’s physical office remains closed until further notice, we are gradually resuming services remotely. We suggest that you visit the following pages to access a range of online learning resources: College Publications under the Resources tab, the Professional Practice webpages and Discipline Decisions. We have also launched a dedicated webpage that we encourage you to refer to regularly for College updates related to COVID-19.

Where can I turn to for support as I navigate the challenges related to COVID-19?

The College is in the process restoring Professional Practice support and other core regulatory operations remotely. We will respond to your inquiries as soon as we are able, but please note that there may be delays in response time during this period. We certainly understand this is a very challenging time for members, and we appreciate your patience. The College’s most recent eBulletin provides additional guidance to members and can be accessed here. You may find the following resources helpful as we all work together to navigate the impact of ongoing developments related to COVID-19:

Should I be suspending my services at this time?

The College is strongly advising members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services until further notice, in compliance with the provincial shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services effective March 24, 2020. For more information on this announcement, please read the news release here. For the list of essential businesses and services, please visit the following webpage. The government regulation (Closure Regulation) setting out the essential businesses and services is here.

Schedule 2 of the Closure Regulation lists the essential businesses and services.
The College cannot decide whether you should suspend your social work or social service work services and/or which of the services that you provide are essential. We encourage you to review the March 20, 2020 eBulletin and the Closure Regulation and to use your professional judgment to make these decisions, considering as well your employment setting and the sector and/or clients that you serve.

Can I provide services by electronic means?

In the current crisis, you may wish to consider options for providing services by electronic means – through the use of any electronic device (including a computer, tablet, smartphone or landline) or any electronic format (including the Internet, social media, online chat, text, video, or email). Before doing so, you must ensure that you are competent to provide such services. You should also consider a number of other important factors, including security and privacy, which are addressed in the following College resources:

Can I provide services to clients outside Ontario?

If you are considering the provision of services to clients who are outside of Ontario, you should contact the regulatory body where the client is located to determine the regulatory requirements in that jurisdiction. The College continues to advise members in this situation to obtain legal advice and contact their professional liability insurance provider before providing services.

If providing services by electronic means, what platform does the College recommend?

The decision about what platform to use to provide services by electronic means is one that you must make yourself, using your professional judgment. If you have deemed that you are competent to provide services by electronic means, the College advises that you consider security and privacy as well as the issues discussed below, when selecting a platform:

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, why isn’t the College mobilizing social workers and social service workers to help in various healthcare settings?

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for many organizations and individuals. The College recognizes that social workers and social service workers play a crucial role during these difficult times. While the issues of mobilizing healthcare workers to respond to an overburdened system are critical, the authority to effect necessary changes and to take these steps does not lie with the College, but rather with the government, the Ministry of Health and employers. As the regulatory body for social workers and social service workers in Ontario, the College’s mandate is to protect the Ontario public from incompetent, unqualified and unfit practitioners. It does this by:

  • Setting entry-to-practice requirements to ensure that only those with specialized educational qualifications are eligible for registration.
  • Setting, maintaining and ensuring that all members follow the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
  • Maintaining a Public Register of registered social workers (RSWs) and registered social service workers (RSSWs) in Ontario.
  • Requiring members to engage in ongoing learning through the Continuing Competence Program (CCP).
  • Maintaining rigorous complaints and discipline processes.

The College remains committed to keeping its members informed so that they are in a position to act professionally, ethically and responsibly.

How soon will someone from the College call me back to answer my practice question?

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for many organizations and individuals. The College is currently working hard to restore Professional Practice support, along with other core regulatory operations. We will make every effort to respond to your inquiries as soon as we can, but please note that there may be delays in response time as we resume these services. We understand that this may be frustrating. We will provide further updates related to the College’s operations shortly, at which point you can contact practice@ocswssw.org for practice inquiries.

Will the College identify what social work and social service work services are essential?

The College cannot make a determination as to which of the services that you provide are essential, as this will depend on your employment setting as well as the sector and/or clients that you serve. This determination should be made in consultation with your employer, following a review of relevant workplace policies. A list of essential businesses and services can be found here. The College strongly advises members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services until further notice, in compliance with the provincial shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services effective March 24, 2020 as set out in the Closure Regulation.

If you provide essential services and must be in direct contact with clients, you should ensure that you are following the health and safety protocols recommended by government and public health. You should also visit the following websites regularly for more information:

You may also wish to consider electronic practice. One of the exceptions set out in the Closure Regulation is a business that operates remotely, without attending at the place of business, providing services online, by telephone or other remote means.
For further information, please review the following resources:

I provide essential services and my employer is asking me to provide direct care to clients.

As part of addressing this situation, you should consider the Standards of Practice, which state that members should “advocate for workplace conditions and policies that are consistent with the Standards of Practice” 1 and maintain the best interest of clients as their primary professional obligation 2. You should use your professional judgment in deciding whether and how to advocate. Advocacy in this case may include preparing a detailed plan to address, among other things, the items listed below, and communicating that plan as appropriate within the context of your workplace based on factors which you consider relevant (which may include, for example, your reporting relationship(s)):

  • how you will provide services electronically;
  • how and why you have determined that you are competent to provide services electronically; and
  • how you will maintain the security and privacy of client information.

It is beyond the mandate of the College to otherwise comment on your employment arrangements.
For further information, please review the following resources:

If I am redeployed to work in another area of my workplace, what should I consider if I am requested to perform other tasks?

As a member of the College, you must ensure that you are competent before performing a task that has been assigned to you as part of a redeployment 3. Among other things, you should consider:

  • whether you 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 4; and
  • whether or not the performance of the task conflicts or is inconsistent with the Standards of Practice.

You may also wish to contact your professional liability insurance provider, consider relevant legislation, and obtain a legal opinion if necessary.
In some instances, you may feel that you are not prepared to perform a task, even though you have received training. If this is the case, you should raise this concern with your manager or other appropriate person and seek alternate redeployment.

1 The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW), The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, Principle II: Competence and Integrity, footnote 10.
2 OCSWSSW, The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, Code of Ethics.
3 OCSWSSW, The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, Principle II: Competence and Integrity, interpretation 2.1.1
4 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.


Impact of COVID-19 on College Operations

Is the College currently closed?

The College made the difficult decision to close its offices on March 16th until further notice in order to protect its staff and stakeholders, recognizing that we all have a shared responsibility to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus.

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely while continuing to monitor the developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. While the College’s physical office remains closed until further notice, we are gradually resuming services remotely. We sincerely apologize for this disruption and its impact on our stakeholders, and will provide further updates related to the College’s operations shortly.

Why aren’t College staff working remotely like many other organizations?

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely while continuing to monitor the developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. While the College’s physical office remains closed until further notice, work is underway and we are gradually restoring services remotely. Given the nature of the College’s work, some services will be limited or unavailable when we are operating remotely. We encourage members and stakeholders to refer regularly to this webpage for all College communications related to this situation.

Is the College responding to phone calls or emails?

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely while continuing to monitor the developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. While the College’s physical office remains closed until further notice, we are gradually resuming services remotely. Responding to inquiries from stakeholders is a top priority. We encourage members and other stakeholders to refer regularly to this webpage for all College communications related to this situation.


Protecting Ontarians

Is it safe to continue seeing my social worker or social service worker?

The College is strongly recommending that members consider suspending all non-essential social work and social service work services until further notice, in compliance with the provincial shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services effective March 24, 2020. For more information on this announcement, please read the news release here. We all have a shared responsibility to help reduce the spread of this virus and the shutdown is intended to protect the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians.

With the College closed, who can I contact if I have a complaint or concern with a registered social service worker?

The College is in the process of restoring core regulatory operations remotely, including some of its complaints and discipline processes, however there will be longer than usual response times as a result. We sincerely apologize for this disruption. Should you have a concern about a College member or wish to file a complaint, we encourage you to visit the Complaints and Discipline page of the College website for more information. Because the College’s services are currently operating remotely, we recommend that you consider completing, scanning and emailing the College’s complaints form to investigations@ocswssw.org rather than sending it by mail or fax. We also encourage you to review the College’s Complaints Guide, which provides an overview of the College’s complaints process.
Please look for further updates related to the College’s operations (including complaints and discipline processes) shortly.

How can I confirm whether or not the individual providing services is registered with the College?

As part of its mandate to protect the public, the College maintains an Online Register of all registered social workers and registered social service workers in Ontario. The Online Register contains information regarding a member’s registration status, discipline history, if any, and their employer contact information. We strongly encourage the public to check the College’s Online Register to confirm the registration status of an individual.


Last Updated: 2020-03-31 @ 17:00pm