Strengthening Social Work practice and regulation using social work values and knowledge

With an initial query by me and later supported by 5 social workers who helped in the edit and framing, this brief was posed to Canadian Social Work Registrars.

Are there organizational practices to enhance the role of clients/consumers who are identified as social groups (such as: Aboriginal, low income, persons of colour, people living with a mental illness, etc.) with Canadian social work regulatory colleges?

Social Work’s unique body of knowledge and values embedded in our Code of Ethics has critical themes which link the individual in their social context in order to intervene effectively at the individual level as well as and advance social change.  In order for Social Work regulatory colleges to protect the public they need to apply a social work informed knowledge base for practitioner accountability.  This would further strengthen both current efforts and the identification of emerging methods and structures through advancing the role of social groups with regulatory college and supporting individual social worker’s accountability in practice, in our client/public experience and in communicating social work values and relevance to the public.

We are urging that Canadian social work regulatory colleges:

  • be willing to share with each other their current collective practices regarding integrating social groups into their accountability structures
  • consider identifying other jurisdictions and initiatives that would be good examples of strengthening the voice of social groups in social work regulatory college accountability structures
  • assess and identify examples in other jurisdictions of legislation that facilitates this approach to accountability if the legal structure of each provincial social work regulatory colleges is unable to take such an approach

This request to incorporate social groups role in social work regulation is founded on the critical role regulation has for the profession.   Dr. Alison MacDonald’s research on social work regulation demonstrates that, “… regulation is used to define who we are, what we do, and who is allowed to be part of our profession.” (2010, iii)




MacDonald, Alison, “Globalization and the Regulation of Social Work Practice in Canada”, Phd thesis, University of Calgary, 2010.

 (please note this draft was what was provided due to deadlines, improved drafts followed from our group and could potentially be shared later)

Lise Betteridge,the Ontario College Social Work and Social Service Worker registrar was willing to share the brief and then provided a summary of the informal feedback from the Canadian Social Work Registrars who also were willing and happy to discuss the questions raised in the brief.

In terms of your question about integrating the voice of social groups into regulatory accountability structures, the group suggests that there are a number of mechanisms in each province which accomplish this, including:

  • Having publicly-appointed members on Council. These members represent the public interest, but it should also be noted that elected professional members are also there to represent the public, rather than their profession. Efforts to ensure diversity on councils are ongoing. The group noted that members of Council are often themselves consumers of social work and social service work services, which further ensures that the voice of the public is well represented at the council tables.
  • The complaints and discipline processes, which are the avenues through which the public can voice its concerns about an individual’s member’s practice.
  • Organizational practices which ensure that issues that impact the public who is served by social workers and social service workers  are ongoing topics at our tables. These topics include but are not limited to gender, fair registration and equivalency policies, and First Nations issues.

Thanks again for your question.

I hope more social workers join the discussion and this exploration!


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