Process – Information for Social Workers
As a registered social worker, you are accountable for your professional conduct and behaviour. The Social Workers Act is the provincial legislation which guides the process of reviewing complaints. NLCSW’s formal complaints process is initiated when a written complaint is received.
Complaints can come from various sources including clients, employers, or social work colleagues. A copy of the original complaint will be provided to enable you to submit a fully informed written response.
An alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process may be used to resolve the complaint, where appropriate. This process provides opportunity for a 3-way agreement between you, NLCSW, and the person who filed the complaint. The agreement outlines actions to be taken to address the issue(s) identified in the complaint.
If the complaint is not resolved through ADR, the written complaint and response 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 individual who filed the complaint, and any other relevant witnesses. The investigator may also request any documentation relevant to the complaint. 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 of the complaint. 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.
- Issue a warning or provide guidance regarding future considerations for practice. This is referred to as a caution or 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.
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. This includes representation by legal counsel, subpoenaing of witnesses to provide evidence, and presentation of arguments. Members of the public may attend the hearing.
If after a hearing, a social worker is found guilty of engaging in conduct deserving of sanction, one or more disciplinary sanctions may be imposed. The following are some examples:
- Pass a specified course(s) of study
- Require regular, focused supervision
- Pay the costs associated with the complaints and discipline process
- Restrict, suspend or cancel registration to practice social work
Hearing decisions must be circulated to at least 2 media outlets and accessible under the Social Worker Registry, as per the Social Workers Act. As a registered social worker, you have the right to appeal a hearing decision to the Supreme Court of NL.
Process and Practice
As detailed in the Social Workers Act, there are various options at the CAC’s disposal to address complaints against practice. Complaints are often resolved at the CAC level and do not require a hearing. While a complaint is making its way through the process, practice is not impacted, except in rare circumstances where public protection warrants that registration be suspended or restricted.
If applying to practice social work in another jurisdiction, NLCSW is required to advise the other regulatory body, as part of the verification of registration process, of any matters addressed through NLCSW’s Complaints Process.
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.