Process – Information for the Public

Following receipt of a written complaint, the social worker is provided with a full copy and required to submit a written response.  

NLCSW may consider an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, where appropriate, to resolve the complaint. This process provides opportunity for a 3-way agreement between you, NLCSW, and the social worker, that would outline actions the social worker must take to address the issue(s) identified in the complaint.  
Matters that are not appropriate for ADR will be referred to NLCSW’s Complaints Authorization Committee (CAC) for review. The CAC is comprised of three members from the NLCSW Board of Directors – two registered social workers and one public representative.  
In matters where more information is required, the CAC will order an investigation. Interviews will be conducted by an independent, trained investigator. The investigator may interview you, the social worker, and any other relevant witnesses. All interviews will be documented, and the results will be compiled in a report for the CAC to review.  

The CAC can exercise various options throughout the process, as detailed in the Social Workers Act. Some examples include: 

  • Dismissal. A complaint may be dismissed, for example, if the CAC is satisfied that there is no evidence of unprofessional conduct, the complaint is without merit or vexatious. A dismissal can be appealed to the Supreme Court of NL. 
  • Issue a warning or provide guidance regarding future considerations for practice. This is referred to as a Caution/Counsel.
  • Referral to NLCSW’s Disciplinary Panel. The Disciplinary Panel is comprised of social workers and public representatives. A referral for a hearing is not a finding of guilt. This can only be determined after a hearing.  

Once a complaint is referred to NLCSW’s Disciplinary Panel, a hearing is convened to consider the evidence and to make a judgment as to whether the social worker is guilty of the complaint(s) brought against them.  

The NLCSW and the social worker are the parties to the hearing. As the person who filed the complaint, you could be called as a witness. Members of the public may attend the hearing. 

Any documents or information supplied throughout the course of a complaint or investigation may be used at a hearing. 

Hearings are conducted in a way that is like what one might expect from a court proceeding. Parties are often represented by legal counsel, witnesses may be subpoenaed to provide evidence, and arguments are presented. 

If the hearing process determines that the social worker is guilty, one or more disciplinary sanctions may be imposed. The following are some examples:  

  • Order the social worker to pass a specified course(s) of study
  • Require regular, focused supervision
  • Order the social worker to pay the costs associated with the complaints and discipline process
  • Restrict, suspend or cancel registration to practice social work

Hearing decisions are circulated to at least 2 media outlets and accessible under the Social Worker Registry, as per the Social Workers Act. Decisions do not disclose the identity of the person who filed the complaint. 

Process Feedback

NLCSW is committed to advancing the complaints process through ongoing evaluation. An individual involved in the complaints process will receive an email invitation to participate in a NLCSW survey at the conclusion of the process. Responses are confidential and remain anonymous.

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