The NLASW has a complaint and discipline process designed to professionally and objectively review allegations against professional social work practice.
The purpose of this process is to provide clarity regarding professional obligations and responsibilities and to ensure social work clients have their right to skilled, ethical, and professional service affirmed.
The Social Workers Act is the provincial legislation, which guides the process for the review of allegations and the types of conduct deserving of sanction:
- Professional misconduct,
- Unprofessional conduct,
- Professional incompetence,
- Conduct unbecoming a social worker,
- Incapacity or unfitness to practice as a social worker, and
- Acting in breach of the Act, the regulations or the by-laws.
If a member of the public feels that a registered social worker (RSW) has conducted themselves in a manner that is unskilled or unprofessional, an allegation can be made to the NLASW.
Submitting an Allegation
Allegations must be submitted in writing to the Associate Registrar, Professional Conduct Review, and signed by the complainant. A statement of allegation is required in order to clearly understand the nature of the allegation. When a written statement of allegation is received, a copy is sent to the social worker for a written response.
Alternate Dispute Resolution Process
An alternate dispute resolution process is an attempt to resolve an allegation in a manner that is mutually agreeable to all parties.
The process begins with consent from all parties to participate and then strives, within 60 working days, to achieve a resolution agreeable to the social worker, the complainant, and the registrar or associate registrar.
When an agreeable outcome has been reached and the terms of the agreement have been completed, the allegation will be considered satisfactorily resolved.
If the allegation is not satisfactorily resolved through the alternate dispute resolution process, or if the social worker fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, the allegation will be referred to the Complaints Authorization Committee.
Complaints Authorization Committee
The Complaints Authorization Committee is comprised of three members from the NLASW Board of Directors. The three members include two RSW’s and one public representative.
If an allegation is referred to the Complaints Authorization Committee, it can exercise one or more of the following actions:
- Refer the allegation back to the registrar or associate registrar for alternate dispute resolution,
- Dismiss the allegation,
- Order an investigation into the allegation, or
- Require the social worker to appear before it.
Dismissal of the Allegation
Allegations will be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence of conduct deserving of sanction. The complainant and social worker will be advised in writing that no further action will be taken.
A decision to dismiss an allegation can be appealed, within 30 days, to the Trial Division by filing a notice of appeal with Registrar of the Supreme Court.
If the Complaints Authorization Committee orders an investigation, the social worker and complainant will be informed when the investigation begins. In order to complete a thorough investigation, individuals other than the social worker and complainant may be interviewed.
Consent will be received in writing prior to interviewing any persons who have information relevant to the investigation. All interviews will be documented and the results of the investigation will be contained in a report. The report will be reviewed by the Complaints Authorization Committee.
Upon review, if the Complaints Authorization Committee are of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a social worker has engaged in conduct deserving of sanction, the allegation is considered a complaint and the committee can exercise one of the following actions:
- Counsel or caution the social worker,
- Refer the allegation to the Disciplinary Panel, or
- Suspend or restrict the social worker's registration.
The Disciplinary Panel is comprised of RSWs and public representatives. RSW members of the Disciplinary Panel are appointed by the NLASW Board of Directors and the public representatives are appointed by the Minister of Health and Community Services.
An adjudication tribunal is comprised of three members from the Disciplinary Panel. The three members include two RSW's and one public representative.
The tribunal is convened to hear evidence and make a judgment whether the social worker’s conduct is deserving of sanction.
Results of a Tribunal
Upon reviewing the evidence and hearing arguments, the Adjudication Tribunal decides whether or not a social worker has engaged in conduct deserving of sanction.
If it is determined that a social worker has practiced in a manner that is unskilled or unprofessional, the tribunal will
render a decision ordering a disciplinary sanction. The following are examples of disciplinary sanctions:
- Order the social worker to pay costs of the investigation and adjudication tribunal,
- Order the social worker to pass a specified course of study or otherwise satisfy the board that they can practice competently,
- Restrict, suspend or cancel registration to practice, or
- Order the registrar or the associate registrar to publish a summary of the tribunal decision.
For more information about the complaints and discipline process, contact the NLASW office.