The Complaints Process

What you need to know

Before filing a formal complaint to the College about a social worker, you may wish to discuss your concerns directly with the social worker or the employer. This can often be the best and fastest way of resolving your concerns.

If you decide to file a complaint please ensure you include your contact information (email and direct phone number).

 

Please review the College’s complaints process & frequently asked
questions below before filing a complaint

The Complaints Process Step-by-Step 

Click through each step 

A complaint is made through the College’s online form or by completing and signing this form and mailing it to the College at 1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700, Halifax, NS.

Please include sufficient information as clearly as possible including your direct contact information.

College receives complaint & the College’s Complaints Committee will review all the information.

If the Complaints Committee determines that your complaint is not within the jurisdiction of the Social Workers Act to investigate, then you will be notified of this decision and the complaint will be closed.

The Complaints Committee may offer you the option of mediation to attempt to resolve the complaint. You are not obligated to accept mediation. If mediation resolves the complaint, the complaint is closed.

If the Complaints Committee proceeds to investigate the complaint you will be notified. A copy of the written complaint will be forwarded to the member (social worker) who is complained against and they are given at least three weeks to respond.

Correspondence from the member and complainant is shared with each other respectively.

If the Complaints Committee investigates and determines that there is a violation of the Social Workers Act, Code of Ethics, or Standard of Practice the Complaints Committee may direct that the complaint is dealt with by:

  • dismissing the complaint and providing any useful guidance to the complainant, the respondent (social worker) or any other people associated with the complaint;
  • informally resolving the complaint;
  • counseling the respondent (social worker);
  • with the respondent’s (social worker’s) consent, order that they receive a reprimand, or that they undergo any necessary treatment or re-education and/or;
  • if the complaint or complaints before the Committee warrant a discipline hearing, it will
    be referred to the Discipline Committee

    (as identified under section 29(2) of the Social Workers Act)

If the complaint is referred to the Discipline Committee, the Committee holds a hearing which includes the member & the Board of Examiners

The member is notified in writing of the time and place for the hearing as well as the specific allegations.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Complaints Process

Yes, with a few exceptions. Any relevant information or documents you share with us will also be shared with the other party to the complaint.

Both the Complainant (person filing complaint) and the College member (social worker) have a chance to respond to the information that will be reviewed by the Complaints Committee.

Although the College aims to maintain confidentiality in all its investigations, there are occasions when information or documents you provide to us may be disclosed to other people. For instance, information may need to be provided to an individual we contact in the course of the investigation so that we can get a statement or documentation from them.

However, if the complaint is referred to the Discipline Committee, any documents or information you supplied throughout the course of a complaint investigation may be used at a discipline hearing which are open to the public.

You may choose to obtain legal advice or representation, but it is not required.

The Complaints Committee meets to review and consider each complaint. Before considering the complaint, the Committee reviews all the correspondence and information presented to it as well as any further relevant information that the Committee independently obtained.

Once the College’s Complaints Committee confirms that the person is a Registered Social Worker or a Social Worker Candidate, the Committee will review the complaint.

  • If the Complaints Committee determines that the complaint is not within the jurisdiction of the Social Workers Act to investigate, then you will be notified of this decision and the complaint will be closed.
  • If the complaint can be investigated, then you will be informed of this decision.
  • A copy of the written complaint will be forwarded to the member who is complained against and the member (social worker) is given at least three weeks to respond.
  • Correspondence is shared with both the member and complainant is shared with each other respectively.

The Complaints Committee may offer you the option of mediation to attempt to resolve the complaint. You are not obligated to accept mediation. If mediation resolves the complaint, the complaint is closed.

If the Complaints Committee investigates and determines that there is a violation of the Social Workers Act, Code of Ethics, or Standard of Practice the Complaints Committee may direct that the complaint be dealt with by:

  • dismissing the complaint and providing any useful guidance to the complainant, the respondent (social worker) or any other people associated with the complaint;
  • informally resolving the complaint;
  • counseling the respondent (social worker);
  • with the respondent’s (social worker’s) consent, order that they receive a reprimand, or that they undergo any necessary treatment or re-education and/or;
  • if the complaint or complaints before the Committee warrant a discipline hearing, it will
    be referred to the Discipline Committee

(as identified under section 29(2) of the Social Workers Act)

We aim to address all complaints in a timely and efficient manner while ensuring that each complaint is dealt with fairly and balances the rights of the complainant and the member (social worker).

The time required to address the complaint also is determined by the nature and complexity of the complaint.

Frequently Asked Questions

Discipline Committee 

When the complaint is referred to the Discipline Committee, there is a hearing. The member (social worker) is notified in writing of the time and place for the hearing as well as the specific allegations. The members and the Board both attend the hearing.

After the Complaints Committee refers the complaint to the Discipline Committee and before the disciplinary hearing, the member (social worker) may propose, in writing, a settlement agreement.

This settlement agreement may or may not be accepted by the Discipline Committee

The Discipline Committee includes of five members. Four of the members are also on the Board of Examiners. One of the four must be a non-social worker appointed by the Governor in Council who is not a social worker. The fifth member must be a social worker in good standing with the College.

A hearing typically takes place at the College’s office in Halifax (1888 Brunswick Street) and all efforts are made to schedule the hearing at a time that is convenient to all parties.

The hearing is presided over by the Chair of the Discipline Committee who is appointed by the Board of Examiners.

At a discipline hearing, the Discipline Committee listens to all of the evidence presented

After the hearing, the Committee meets privately to consider the evidence. They consider the relevant facts of the complaint and may find evidence to prove that the member (social worker) is guilty of incompetence, misconduct, conduct unbecoming or in violation of the Code of Ethics.

If there is a finding against the member, the Committee must consider sanctions that will be applied. When they’ve made their decision, the Committee will prepare written reasons to support their decision.

These decisions may be made immediately after the hearing but if this is not possible, the Committee must arrange for a further meeting and come to a decision on the matter. When the decision and the reasons are prepared the member and the complainant are notified in writing.

If the Committee finds that the allegations of the complaint have not been proved, then the complaint is dismissed.

If the Committee finds that the allegations have been proved in whole or in part, it may find that the member is guilty of incompetence, misconduct, conduct unbecoming or a violation of the Code of Ethics and impose one or more of the following sanctions:

  • Revoke the member’s right to practice.
  • Suspend the member’s right to practice for a limited period of time.
  • Impose undertakings, conditions, and limitations on the member’s right to practice.
  • Reprimand or counsel the member.
  • Revoke or suspend the member’s right to practice in their specialty.
  • Impose a fine.
  • Repay or reduce the fees charged by the member.
  • Publish the order of the Committee in the official publication of the Association.
  • Fix the costs of the proceedings to be paid by the member.

Questions?

Please contact the College’s Regulatory & Candidacy Consultant Sherry Battiste at sherry.battiste@nscsw.org.

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