The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers continues to monitor and respond to the significant impact of COVID-19. While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations.

We thank applicants, 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.


College communications


Last updated: 2021-10-29 @ 11:25 a.m.

Frequently Asked Questions

Registration & Membership

Registration

Membership

Professional Practice Support

Contacting the College

Practice inquiries

In-person practice considerations

Vaccination status

Impact of COVID-19 on College Operations

Protecting Ontarians


Registration & Membership

Registration

How can I apply for registration with the College?

The College is pleased to offer first-time applicants the ability to securely apply and pay their application and registration fees to the College through its NEW online application portal. Please visit the online application webpage. The online application portal is currently available to individuals who:

  • have obtained an accredited social work degree;
  • have obtained an approved social service work diploma; or,
  • are applying on the basis of their registration as a social worker in another Canadian jurisdiction.

If you are applying through the equivalency stream, please visit one of the following webpages for more information:

Applicants who prefer to submit a paper-based application can do so by contacting the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org.

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

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations, including processing applications for registration. We thank you for your patience as we anticipate delays in processing times due to the high volume of received applications. We apologize for these delays and are working hard to ensure ongoing communications to applicants who are waiting for their applications to be processed.

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

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations, including processing applications for registration. In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all registration inquiries be sent via email registration@ocswssw.org. 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 due to the high volume of received applications. We apologize for these delays and are working hard to ensure ongoing communications to applicants who are waiting for their applications to be processed.

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 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  due to the high volume of received applications.

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/. The College is pleased to offer first-time applicants the ability to securely apply and pay their application and registration fees to the College through its online application portal. Please visit the online application webpage for more information.

For all other inquiries, please contact the Registration Department via email at registration@ocswssw.org. 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 due to the high volume of received applications.

Why isn’t the College making it easier for retired or former members of the College to volunteer or otherwise contribute during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The College appreciates retired and former members’ desire to register with the College under the general class of certificate of registration through an expedited process, in order to be in a position to volunteer or otherwise contribute during the current COVID-19 crisis. We also recognize retired and former members’ strong commitment to making a difference to the well-being of the Ontario public.

The College must continue to follow the registration processes that were developed in accordance with the Registration Regulation made under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act and must ensure that all its decisions (before, during and in the aftermath of a pandemic or other crisis) align with its ongoing mandate of public protection.

Requirements related to registration, continuing competence and minimum standards of practice are all essential in ensuring that social work and social service work services are provided by members who are:

  • current in their practice;
  • have maintained their competence through the Continuing Competence Program (CCP); and
  • are familiar with, and adhere to, the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

While retired and former members may have made efforts to remain current and competent, the College must continue to verify this through its registration/re-registration processes in accordance with the requirements of the Registration Regulation. The Registration Regulation can only be changed through a government approval process.

At this time, both former and retired members of the College are advised to apply/re-apply for registration in the general class through the processes described on our website. An inactive member can apply to move into the general class if they wish to return to practice as a social worker or social service worker.

I am a new graduate, having completed the requirements for my social work/social service work program, and need to register with the College as soon as possible. What are the steps to apply?

We understand that in some circumstances you may need to register with the College before convocation. This is not the case for all new graduates. If you are graduating with a degree in social work or a diploma in social service work and require membership in the College prior to convocation – but after you have completed all the academic and practicum requirements of your program – the Registrar may issue a general certificate of registration provided all other registration requirements are met, and you agree to a term, condition and limitation on your certificate of registration. (This term, condition and limitation will be removed once the College receives verification from your academic institution that you have obtained a degree in social work or a diploma in social service work.)

If you are a graduating student and would like to apply for a certificate of registration on this basis, please visit the Students and New Graduates webpage.

I have received a job offer and would like submit a request for high-priority registration. What are the steps to apply?

In instances where a job offer has been made, you may make a request for the application to be expedited. Your request for high-priority registration can be emailed to registration@ocswssw.org and should include a copy of the job offer or a letter from your employer which indicates that registration is required for job-offer purposes. Should we be able to, the College will endeavour to expedite the processing of the application as soon as possible, once all documents have been submitted.

My academic institution is not mailing transcripts at this time. How can I send my transcript to the College?

Where possible, the College requires official transcripts to be mailed directly from the academic institution. During this period, while some academic institutions have suspended the mailing of transcripts, we will accept emailed transcripts. Please ensure that your transcript is emailed from the academic institution directly to registration@ocswssw.org.


Membership

Why isn’t the College reducing membership fees for 2022?

While recognizing the challenges faced by many at this time, the College is not in a position to reduce and/or suspend membership fees. When approving membership fees for 2022, the College Council took into careful consideration the ongoing impact of COVID-19, along with operating costs, resource needs and other factors.

It decided that there would be no fee increase in 2022. This decision was made very carefully, to ensure that the College can continue to meet its public protection mandate and support ethical and professional practice.

The College’s operations are fully funded by member fees. It must always ensure that it has sufficient resources to support regulatory operations and fulfill its important public protection mandate.

How can I request my tax receipts?

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, 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.

Why isn’t the College making it easier for retired or former members of the College to volunteer or otherwise contribute during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The College appreciates retired and former members’ desire to register with the College under the general class of certificate of registration through an expedited process, in order to be in a position to volunteer or otherwise contribute during the current COVID-19 crisis. We also recognize retired and former members’ strong commitment to making a difference to the well-being of the Ontario public.

The College must continue to follow the registration processes that were developed in accordance with the Registration Regulation made under the Social Work and Social Service Work Act and must ensure that all its decisions (before, during and in the aftermath of a pandemic or other crisis) align with its ongoing mandate of public protection.
Requirements related to registration, continuing competence and minimum standards of practice are all essential in ensuring that social work and social service work services are provided by members who are:

  • current in their practice;
  • have maintained their competence through the Continuing Competence Program (CCP); and
  • are familiar with, and adhere to, the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

While retired and former members may have made efforts to remain current and competent, the College must continue to verify this through its registration/re-registration processes in accordance with the requirements of the Registration Regulation. The Registration Regulation can only be changed through a government approval process.

At this time, both former and retired members of the College are advised to apply/re-apply for registration in the general class through the processes described on our website. An inactive member can apply to move into the general class if they wish to return to practice as a social worker or social service worker.


Professional Practice Support

Contacting the College

How soon will someone from the College respond to my practice question?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented challenges for many organizations and individuals. While the College’s physical office remains closed, we have resumed many regulatory operations remotely, including Professional Practice support. In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all practice inquiries be sent via email practice@ocswssw.org. We will make every effort to respond to your inquiry as soon as we can, but please note that there may be delays in response time during this period.

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

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations. In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all practice inquiries be sent via email practice@ocswssw.org. We will make every effort to respond to your inquiry as soon as we can, but please note that there may be delays in response time during this period.

Practice inquiries

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 impacts related to COVID-19:

We also encourage you to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying your professional judgment to practice decisions.

You should visit this College webpage to access practice support and eBulletins which have been sent to members and other stakeholders throughout the pandemic.

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?

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations. 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 this 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?

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations, including Professional Practice support. In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all practice inquiries be sent via email practice@ocswssw.org. We will make every effort to respond to your inquiry as soon as we can, but please note that there may be delays in response time during this period.

We certainly understand this continues to be a very challenging time for members and other stakeholders both personally and professionally. You should continue to visit this College webpage to access practice support and eBulletins which have been sent to members and other stakeholders throughout the pandemic.

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

We encourage you to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying your professional judgment to practice decisions.

Can I continue to provide services by electronic means?

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. You are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying their professional judgment.

You should also ensure that you are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice 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.

For further information, please see the College’s FAQs on cross-jurisdictional practice.

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.

For information on factors to consider for virtual services, read the College’s article Top 6 Considerations for Virtual Services.

For further information on the use of communication technology in practice, review the following College resources:

In-person practice considerations

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.

What safety measures should I consider as I prepare to resume in-person services?

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. You are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying their professional judgment.

You should also ensure that you are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice resources:

What guidance has the College issued for members regarding in-person services?

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. You are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying their professional judgment.

You should also ensure that you are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice resources:

As a member in private practice, can I resume in-person services?

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. You are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying their professional judgment.

You should also ensure that you are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice resources:

The College also shared specific considerations for members who work in private practice in a June 2, 2020 eBulletin which you may find helpful.

The College continues to urge social workers and social service workers to remain vigilant against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, despite improvements in the vaccination rate and other positive public health and healthcare indicators.

As a social worker/social service worker in private practice, what safety protocols should I implement before returning to in-person practice?

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. You are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying their professional judgment.

You should also ensure that you are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice resources:

In an effort to protect the health and well-being of our members and the Ontario public, the College issued important considerations for members who work in private practice in a June 2, 2020 eBulletin. The eBulletin provides considerations for members who work in private practice and are looking for guidance in planning when and how to return to providing in-person services and includes a number of safety protocols.

The College continues to urge social workers and social service workers to remain vigilant against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, despite improvements in the vaccination rate and other positive public health and healthcare indicators.

Vaccination status

Do I need to request proof of vaccination from my clients before providing in-person services?

Information provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health states that proof of vaccination is required in specific settings, but not in places where people receive medical care.

Mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated.

Important note: The preceding sentence is taken from the OHRC’s September 22, 2021 “OHRC policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates.” Members should read the OHRC policy statement in its entirety.

Members should also consider the following:

  • A client’s vaccination is sensitive personal health information and should treat such information accordingly.
  • All clients should be treated consistently, which may require College members and/or their places of employment to adopt a policy regarding vaccination matters.

College members who are considering whether to ask their clients about their vaccination status, even though this may not be required in their practice setting, should obtain professional advice regarding the legal, liability, privacy and human rights aspects of the issues that exist in relation to vaccination matters.

Can I refuse in-person service to unvaccinated clients?

The College is advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means. There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. Members are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment.

Mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated.

Important note: The preceding sentence is taken from the OHRC’s September 22, 2021 “OHRC policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates.” Members should read the OHRC policy statement in its entirety.

Members should also consider the following:

  • A client’s vaccination is sensitive personal health information and should treat such information accordingly.
  • All clients should be treated consistently, which may require College members and/or their places of employment to adopt a policy regarding vaccination matters.

College members who are considering whether to ask their clients about their vaccination status, even though this may not be required in their practice setting, should obtain professional advice regarding the legal, liability, privacy and human rights aspects of the issues that exist in relation to vaccination matters.

Can my employer require me to be fully vaccinated?

 It is beyond the mandate of the College to comment on specific employment arrangements or workplace policies that members may be subject to in their place of employment.

The College continues to urge social workers and social service workers to remain vigilant against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to review the College’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice which sets out the minimum standards for all members to follow.

College members should also ensure that they are up-to-date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and should familiarize themselves with previous College communications regarding:

Members can direct any inquiries about mandatory vaccinations in their workplace to the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) or the Ontario Social Service Workers Association (OSSWA).

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 remains open and continues to carry out its regulatory operations. Please note that the College’s physical office remains closed to the public.

In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all inquiries be sent via email to the appropriate department.

Is the College responding to phone calls or emails?

Yes. While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations. In order to ensure we provide efficient and timely services on a remote basis, we are requesting that all inquiries be sent via email to the appropriate department. Responding to inquiries from stakeholders continues to be a top priority.


Protecting Ontarians

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

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences.

The College continues to provide recommendations that are intended to protect the health and well-being of both members and the Ontario public.

Who can I contact if I have a complaint or concern with a registered social service worker?

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations, including our complaints and discipline processes. 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.

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: 2021-10-29 @ 11:25 a.m.