Professionals should not go up against their regulator alone
The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (“OCSWSSW”) is the regulatory body of social workers and social service workers across the province. They:
- decide who has a certificate to practice as a social worker or social service worker
- handle complaints against social workers and social service workers
But your College does not work for you. In fact, the College can:
- deny applicant’s applications for a certificate to practice or
- suspend, revoke or place terms, conditions, or limitations on social workers and social service worker’s certificate to practice
If you plan to apply to the College or have received notice of complaint it is important that you have representation to protect your interests and defend your rights.
Our team of experienced lawyers can assist social workers and social service workers with matters including:
- Advising social workers and social service workers on compliance with relevant legislation and standards
- Responding to complaints and investigations at the College
- Representing social workers and social service workers at the Fitness to Practise Committee
- Defending social workers and social service workers in hearings before the College’s of Discipline Committee
- Advocating for social workers and social service workers to resolve matters through the College’s complaint resolution process
- Representing social workers and social service workers in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario
- Advising social workers and social service workers on issues within their field including those related to licensing, privacy/confidentiality, and employment issues related to staff and contractors
Applying for a license or in the College’s language a “Certificate of Registration” for either supervised or autonomous practice is a complex process.
Applications are reviewed by the Registrar who seek extensive evidence that an applicant meets the following requirements:
- Academic qualifications obtained from a social work or social service work program or equivalent program
- Experience in the practice of social work or social service work within the last five years (for applicants who graduated more than five years ago)
- Otherwise, satisfy the Registrar that you are competent to perform the role of a social worker or social service worker
Once an application is submitted, the Registrar may:
- Determine that you have met the requirements and issue a certificate of registration
- Issue a certificate of registration subjected to terms, conditions, or limitations to which the applicant has consented
- Determine that the requirements have not been met and propose to refuse to issue a certificate of registration
- Propose to impose terms, conditions, or limitations on a certificate to which you have not consented
Our office can help you prepare an application and offer legal advice on concerns you may have. If you are planning to apply for a certificate from the OCSWSSW, contact us today.
The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (“OCSWSSW”) receives complaints and reports from:
- members of the public
- clients of social workers and social service workers
- employers of social workers and social service workers
- other social workers and social service workers
Members of the College are required to file a report, if during their practice they have obtained reasonable grounds to believe that another member of the same or different College has sexually abused a patient, is incompetent or is incapacitated.
The first step of the complaint process is at the Complaints Committee.
Complaints filed with the College must be made in writing or voice recorded for transcription. The complainant, the College and the member exchange a series of documents:
- A complaint is filed against a member
- The member is notified in writing that the College has received a complaint
- The member has an opportunity to provide the College with a written response to the complaint
- The College will conduct an investigation
- The Complaints Committee will issue a decision
The potential outcomes of a decision include:
- A decision to take no further action
- Require the member to appear before the Complaints Committee to be cautioned
- Take any action the Complaints Committee considers appropriate (i.e. issue a letter of concern to the member)
- Refer a matter to the Discipline or Fitness to Practice Committee
These outcomes can have very serious financial and personal impacts on members. If you have received a complaint from the OCSWSSW, please contact us today.
A complaint containing serious allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence are sent to the Discipline Committee for a discipline hearing.
Before a matter progresses to a hearing at the Discipline Committee a pre-hearing may occur. A pre-hearing is an opportunity for the College and the member to present their case in an informal manner.
In our experience a pre-hearing at a college can be used to:
- Reduce the allegations against a member
- Reduce the penalty being sought by a member
- Raise important legal issues before trial
At the Discipline Committee a trial may take place where witnesses are called, and evidence is heard.
Outcomes at the Discipline Committee can include:
- A reprimand
- Terms, conditions, or limitations placed on the member’s certificate
- Imposing a fine
- Suspending or revoking the member’s certificate
- Orders for the member to pay some or all of the costs of a trial
These are extremely serious public outcomes. If your matter has or could be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact us today.
Fitness to Practise Committee
The Fitness to Practise Committee is a specialized Committee dealing with cases where a member’s conduct was impacted by an ongoing medical condition.
For example, a mental health condition may impact a member’s ability to maintain professional standards in aspects of their practice.
In our experience, a referral to the Fitness to Practise Committee can offer a number of benefits to members, because:
- Complaints are generally resolved in a more private manner
- The goal of the process is ensuring the health of the member
If the Committee determines the member is incapacitated, outcomes may include:
- Revoking a member’s certificate
- Suspending the member’s certificate for a specified period
- Imposing specified terms, conditions, or limitations on the member’s certificate
However, it is unusual for members to be referred to Fitness to Practise Committees without legal representation. It takes experienced and detailed representation to present the evidence that the Committee will want to see to consider a referral to Fitness to Practise. If there is a complaint against you, please contact us today.
Decisions of the Registration Committee can be appealed to the
College’s Registration Appeals Committee.
Decisions of the Discipline Committee and Fitness to Practise Committee can be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court.
Unfortunately, self-represented individuals are very rarely successful in appeals. We have unique expertise in appeals from regulatory colleges. If you are considering an appeal, please contact us today.