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.



Last Updated: 2020-07-22 @ 3:00 p.m.

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?

While the College’s physical office remains closed to the public, we continue to carry out our regulatory operations, including processing applications for registration received by mail.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College is processing high-priority registrations on a case-by-case basis. If you  wish to be considered for high-priority registration, please make your request in writing to the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org. We thank you for your patience as we anticipate delays in processing times due to the high volume of received applications.

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 received by mail. 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.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College is processing high-priority registrations on a case-by-case basis. Applicants who wish to be considered for high-priority registration must make their request in writing to the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org.

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/. 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.

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 would like to submit a high-priority application for registration. What are the steps to apply?

The College is processing high-priority applications on a case-by-case basis for the following registration streams:

  • social work degree from an accredited program
  • social service work diploma from an approved program
  • registered social worker from a province or territory outside Ontario, excluding Nunavut (AIT)

If you wish to be considered for high-priority registration, please make your request in writing to the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org and include the following:

  • College application form: Download, print and complete the appropriate application form, including your signature, and email the completed form with your request.
  • Credit card authorization: As part of the application form, please complete the credit card payment authorization section and ensure the cardholder signs.
  • Official transcript (or In Good Standing Certificate for AIT applicants): If you have already obtained your SSW diploma, BSW degree or MSW degree, the academic institution must email us directly the official transcript. For AIT applicants, the SW regulator must email us directly the In Good Standing Certificate.
  • Reason for the request: The reason for your request must be included in order to initiate a high-priority application for registration.

Important note: If you have not obtained a social work degree or social service work diploma, but have completed all of the academic and practicum requirements for your degree or diploma, we will send the appropriate Confirmation of Completion of Requirements form to your university or college if we are able to begin processing your application as a high-priority application for registration.

The College will make every effort to process high-priority applications for registration in a timely manner. Please note that there may be delays in response time due to the high volume of received applications.

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?

As a new graduate, if you wish to be considered for high-priority registration, please make your request in writing to the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org and include the following:

  • College application form: Download, print and complete the appropriate application form, including your signature, and email the completed form with your request.
  • Credit card authorization: As part of the application form, please complete the credit card payment authorization section and ensure the cardholder signs.
  • Reason for the request: Please include the reason for your request to be considered a high-priority application for registration.

If you have not obtained a social work degree or social service work diploma, but have completed all of the academic and practicum requirements for your degree or diploma, the College will send the appropriate Confirmation of Completion of Requirements form to your university or college if we are able to begin processing your application as a high-priority registration.

The College will make every effort to process high-priority applications for registration in a timely manner. Please note that there may be delays in response time due to the high volume of received applications.

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

If you have mailed your application form to the College and wish to be considered for high-priority registration, please make your request in writing to the Registration Department at registration@ocswssw.org and include the reason for your request.

If the application form has not yet been mailed, you may include a letter with your application form providing the reasons for your request.

The College will make every effort to process high-priority applications for registration in a timely manner. Please note that there may be delays during this period.

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

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?

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.

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

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

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

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.

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:

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

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 is a very challenging time for members, and we appreciate your patience. The College has issued a number of eBulletins which provide guidance to members and and include factors to consider as the Province implements its framework for reopening. The eBulletins can be accessed on this webpage, under “College communications.”

You may find the following resources helpful as we all work together to navigate the impact of ongoing developments 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.

Should I continue to suspend my services at this time?

The College continues to strongly advise members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services, in compliance with the current provincial emergency orders.

The College cannot decide on behalf of individual members which of their services are essential and/or when it is safe and appropriate for them to resume in-person services. Members must make their own determination, based on:

  • their employment setting;
  • the sector and/or clients that they serve;
  • consultation with their employer and a review of relevant workplace policies; and
  • careful consideration of how safety and infection control measures apply to their practice and setting.

Members must use their professional judgment to determine whether it is appropriate for them to resume in-person services at this time. Members should carefully review the safety and infection control measures that must be in place to ensure their own safety and that of the clients and communities they serve.

While resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. Members are advised to use their professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

Members will need to consider a number of factors as they decide how and when they will return to practice. We encourage them to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment to this important decision. Members should also consider principles described in the Ministry of Health’s Directive #2.

Can I provide services by electronic means?

While resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. Members are advised to use their professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to 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 may wish to read the following resource to determine whether or not you are competent to provide services by electronic means:

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 respond to my practice question?

The COVID-19 pandemic poses 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.

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

Under the Closure Regulation, as of May 19, 2020, professionals or organizations that provide in-person counselling services are listed as an essential business. Members may provide other services that are also listed as an essential business under the Closure Regulation. A list of essential businesses and services can be found here.

The College continues to strongly advise members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services. While resuming in-person services listed in the Closure Regulation may be permitted, it is not required by the Closure Regulation. Members are advised to use their professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

If you provide essential services as listed in the Closure Regulation 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 authorities. The Closure Regulation includes a requirement that the person responsible for an essential place of business must operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting. You should also visit the following websites regularly for more information:

The College cannot decide on behalf of individual members which of their services are listed as essential under the Closure Regulation and/or when it is safe and appropriate for them to resume in-person services. Members must make their own determination, based on:

  • their employment setting;
  • the sector and/or clients that they serve;
  • consultation with their employer and a review of relevant workplace policies; and
  • careful consideration of how safety and infection control measures apply to their practice and setting.

Members must consider a number of factors as they decide when and how they will return to in-person practice. We encourage them to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment to this important decision. Members may also wish to review the following College 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.

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

To ensure their own safety and that of the clients and communities they serve, members should consider the safety and infection control measures that must be in place and how these apply to their own practice and setting.

These measures may include, but are not limited to:

  • physical distancing
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • screening/self-screening
  • regular cleaning and disinfection

To protect their own health and safety as well as that of their clients, members are strongly advised to seek information from government and public health authorities if/when they resume in-person practice. A number of relevant COVID-19 resources can be found below:

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

While resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. The College advises members to use their professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

All College members should follow guidance from government and public health authorities and apply it to their own sector and setting. The College has provided members working with organizations and employers to some of the sector-specific resources below and advises them to follow guidance provided by their employer. A number of relevant COVID-19 resources can be found below:

The College shared specific considerations for members who work in private practice in a June 2, 2020 eBulletin which should be reviewed when planning when and how to return to providing in-person services.

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

While the College cannot decide on behalf of a member whether or not to return to in-person services, 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.

As a member in private practice, you must use your professional judgment to determine whether it is appropriate to resume in-person services at this time. You should consider the safety and infection control measures that must be in place to ensure your own safety and that of the clients and communities you serve.

While resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. The College advises you to use your professional judgment and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

You must also consider a number of factors as you decide how and when to return to in-person practice. We encourage you to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist you in applying your professional judgment to this important decision.

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

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.

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?

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. 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.

Is the College responding to phone calls or emails?

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. 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.


Protecting Ontarians

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

The College continues to strongly advise members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services, and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

The Government of Ontario is reopening businesses and public spaces in three stages, guided by the Framework for Reopening Our Province. The reopening framework includes detailed lists of essential services and businesses for stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 openings, which can be found here.

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. 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. 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 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.

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: 2020-07-22 @ 3:00 p.m.