NSCSW submission to the Child and Family Services Act review

The Department of Community Services recently conducted a mandatory review of the Children and Family Services Act (CFSA). The NSCSW was consulted on this matter and followed up the consultation with a written submission. The NSCSW is publicly releasing its submission, as it believes that under its mandate in the Social Workers Act it is compelled to do so.

The Department of Community Services chose to conduct their review in a manner that both limited the scope and engagement process, and excluded core stakeholders such as frontline staff, families involved in the system, and children and youth in care. As such, the CFSA Review Committee chose three of the least problematic areas of the Act that focused on:

  • Section 25: Duty to report third party abuse to ensure that the intended reporting duty is appropriately captured and any potential changes that could be made;
  • Section 94: Prohibition on publications to determine whether there should be discretion for the Minister or the Court to publish information in exceptional circumstances; and
  • Section 63 – 66: Child abuse register to explore if the legislation is effective in keeping children and the community safe.

The challenges that have emerged in the provision of services to vulnerable children and families through the amended Act have remained far too problematic for such a narrow review. The lack of public engagement also seems counter to the current political climate.

Given the narrow scope, the NSCSW has chosen to provide a more comprehensive review of the Act (although still limited, due to a lack of available data), and evaluate the Act through the lens of the Social Policy Framework created last year in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia Office (CCPA-NS).

The Social Policy Framework was designed to support the development and evaluation of social policy through a set of ten principles that have been researched and designed to create a more equitable and fairer Nova Scotia. Utilizing this framework, our submission assessed the impact of the Act and how it has contributed to creating greater inequality and inequity, further marginalizing vulnerable children and youth. This submission did not make recommendations on how to improve the Act, but rather it laid groundwork for NSCSW to do so in a future policy paper.

The NSCSW mandate is to serve and protect the public interest; to preserve the integrity of the social-work profession; and to advocate for the development, enhancement and promotion of policies to improve social conditions and promote social justice. We feel that in order to live up to the expectations of this mandate there needs to be a public record of our actions regarding the CFSA review. In addition, the NSCSW’s strategic plan has committed us to being responsible, accountable and transparent. We believe that to achieve this strategic objective, members need to have an opportunity to review our submission and provide feedback. Finally, our Social Policy Framework promotes the principle of democratization and calls on governments to engage with communities to shape public policy. Communities must have as much information as possible to provide public feedback, and we believe our submission will add to that process.

The NSCSW has been working with Department of Community Services to address many of the core issues outlined in this submission. We welcome this open and honest dialogue and are hopeful that it will lead to change. It is our hope that with the release of this submission our political decision-makers will see the clear need for a fundamental shift in the delivery of child welfare and provide the Department of Community Services with the resources to implement core changes.

Alec Stratford
NSCSW Executive Director/Registrar
March 10, 2021

NSCSW Staff Reorganization

View of Halifax from Dartmouth harbour trail

How we got here

Over the last decade the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers (NSCSW) has experienced significant changes in leadership and staffing, as well as in strategic direction. 

In 2016 amendments were made to the 1993 Social Workers Act which transformed the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers into the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, and sparked a renewed vision and growth for the NSCSW. The amended Social Workers Act resulted in major changes to the College’s mandate as both a regulatory and association body, our programming, and brand. The College also embarked on a provincial campaign to renew our professional commitments, values, ethics, and professional practices. 

In 2017 the College focused on enhancing communication and engagement with members and the public including: building a bi-weekly member newsletter; transforming Connectionmagazine; offering professional development opportunities throughout Nova Scotia; and rebuilding core committees armed with a clear focus and expectations. 2017 also saw a provincial consultation regarding social work ethics, a revised Candidacy Mentorship Program, and significant achievements made toward becoming a recognized leader in advocacy, and social justice working to protect Nova Scotians. 

A transformational agenda led to the College conducting a provincial consultation with its membership in effort to develop an ambitious 5-year Strategic Plan. The overall objective of the plan was to fulfill the College’s mandate and create a vibrant, visible, and vocal social work community. The membership voted to adopt this plan in 2018. 

While the above does not represent an exhaustive list of the changes made and experienced by the NSCSW, the evidence is clear the College of today is transforming in nature, complexity and reach in effort to address its integrated function as both a regulatory and association body. 

Attending to the College’s transformational agenda and goal of making impactful change has heightened the responsibilities and expectations of the College. In addition to these pressures, the College has experienced continuous membership growth breaking the 2000 mark in 2018, and has received an unprecedented number of complaints, increasing from an average of 16 complaints between 2012 to 2016 to approximately 44 in 2020. 

Changes on the horizon

After a lengthy and comprehensive review, the NSCSW is ready to make some key changes. The first will be to transition the Professional Practice Consultant staff role, which is currently a 0.6 position, into a full-time position with new responsibilities regarding professional standards and advocacy. 

This change does mean saying goodbye to Annemieke Vink who has done an outstanding job at bringing to life the new Connection magazine, providing strategic support to the Social Justice Committee as they delivered on our major mental health paper, and of course working with the Professional Development Committee to organize and deliver our annual conference and professional development events across the province.

Annemieke’s contribution to the profession of social work in Nova Scotia will be celebrated more over the coming months and we wish her well in her retirement. 

Stay tuned to this blog and the member-only newsletter for more announcements over the next few weeks.

African Heritage Month 2021: Black History Matters

Welcome all to African Heritage Month. This year’s theme is particularly relevant as it serves to inform all Nova Scotians about our important African Nova Scotian history, heritage and culture and the role it plays in transforming society. The last year has brought greater attention to deeply rooted racial inequalities that exist in Nova Scotia, which is why this year’s provincial theme, “Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share and Act,” calls on all Nova Scotians to make a better society by recognizing the long-standing history and legacy of African Nova Scotians, and by acknowledging racialized issues and adversity for people of African descent.

We call on all social workers to join us in sharing and learning more about the incredible resilience of Black Nova Scotians and the continued adversity that the over 50 Black communities in Nova Scotia face. This is a time to learn and reflect on this important history, as well as for non-Black social workers to reflect on our on role as allies, and to challenge the ongoing economic inequality that is inextricably linked to systemic, institutional and interpersonal legacies of racism in Nova Scotia.

We hope these resources will help you engage in this learning.

Upcoming Events: 

Previous Webinars:

At the root of the change that that needs to occur is an ideological shift in the current fiscal and social policy that has built a system of haves and have-nots. Social work as profession has contributed and actively participated in discrimination against Black people and communities. As Merlinda Weinberg recently pointed out in her contribution to the most recent issue of Connection magazine:

Social work as a profession has always been a normative based profession, focusing on ethics as a foundational concept. However, when one looks at the vehicles for evaluating ethics, such as codes and decision-making models, and the texts addressing ethics in social work, the absence of the recognition of racism as a fundamental problem in social work ethics is striking. 

Dr. Merlinda Weinberg, RSW
The Absence of Racism as a Fundamental Concern in Ethics in Social Work
Connection — Fall 2020

Dr Weinberg points out that while the Nova Scotia Code of Ethics recognizes ‘diversity’ and ‘discrimination’ it omits the term ‘racism’ completely She writes, “Respect for and celebration of diversity are laudable goals, but they ‘whitewash’ the more troubling and insidious reality of racism in social work in Canada generally, and Nova Scotia in particular.”

At the NSCSW our commitment to anti-racist work will continue and grow. We are committed to ensuring that the College reflects the diverse voices of Nova Scotians by working to ensure representation on the College’s committees and staffing. We are also committed and are in the process of examining the pedagogy of social work by working with our national partners to update the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, with the commitment of embedding the principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission within them and ensuring meaningful collaboration with Black social workers. Once this review is completed, we are committed to updating the NSCSW Standards of Practice which are at the root of how we regulate the profession, in order to ensure that they are reflective of Afrocentric and Indigenous views.

Through our communications tools, we will continue to share the stories and successes of the important and distinct contributions of social workers from diverse backgrounds. We will continue to organize and offer specific social work education on anti-racism. 

Many of our members are already leading the urgent and vital work of identifying and dismantling white supremacy in our praxis, our institutions, and our communities. I urge all of you to join them in this task. I also invite concerned members to comment on this blog post, to contact me or your elected Council representatives to discuss how the College —and our social work community— needs to embrace these changes, or to join College committees and participate directly.

Alec Stratford
Executive Director/Registrar

Take a moment

Take a breath, and feel your feet underneath you. Feel the breath flowing in and out of your body, and ground yourself through the radiating of love, compassion and empathy that still exists and is all around us during one of the darkest periods in Nova Scotia history. That love, compassion and empathy that is around us is being generated each and every day through you. It is brought to life in the ways that you are supporting vulnerable Nova Scotians who went into this pandemic facing economic, health and social inequities and it is deeply meaningful to all Nova Scotians who are grieving the senseless violence that occurred over the weekend.

What you do matters, and it makes a difference.

What makes each and every one of you so unique and heroic during these times is your capacity to lead through empathy. Not only are you providing professional care to the most vulnerable in Nova Scotia, you are also finding ways to care for your families and your communities.

It’s important to take whatever moments you can find to pause and acknowledge the stress that your hearts, minds and bodies are feeling.  To acknowledge and determine what you need in this situation is an important act of social justice; knowing that that your own well-being matters grounds us in the empathy, values​ and compassion that we share professionally. We can also take a moment to reflect on questions such as: “What do I really want for myself? For the other people around me? For our relationship(s)? For our organizations, and our community?”

Be kind to yourselves. Give yourself as much support as you would give to a friend. Be sure to take care of your body. When you can: drink water, eat healthy, move your body, rest, sleep, and get outside for fresh air and sun.

Strive for a sense of calm. Practice relaxation and coping strategies such as deep breathing, grounding by feeling both feet on the floor, and pausing between tasks for a moment to reset. Support yourself and others to roll with uncertainty and its impact(s). Accept that productivity and “business as usual” is not the same. Provide flexibility in how and when work is completed.

Stay connected. Connect with people both in your personal and work lives through phone calls, virtual meetings, and writing. Know that you are not alone. You have a professional community that is cheering you on, and that is here.

The world may bring deep darkness
But we are the bearers of light
We’ll join our flames together
And shine in the [darkest] of nights

— John Mark Green

Alec Stratford
NSCSW Registrar/Executive Director

Parts of this blog post were written using the resource:
Leading Through COVID-19 Pandemic; For Formal and Informal Leaders. IWK Health Centre. 2020

Transitioning to telepractice

As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, many folks have reached out for guidance on best practices for using technology to conduct their social work practice. 

Social workers’ use of technology has created new ways to interact and communicate with clients, raising fundamentally new questions about the meaning of the social worker–client relationship. In addition, social workers use various forms of technology to access, gather, and otherwise manage information about clients. Social workers maintain encrypted electronic records, store sensitive information on their smartphones and in the “cloud,” and have the capacity to search for information about clients using Internet search engines. Social workers use technology in creative ways to address compelling social justice issues, organize communities, administer organizations, and develop social policy. Social workers also explore and develop new technologies for practice and disseminate them with colleagues. 

For further information and clarification please refer to Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice, published by the National College of Social Workers and Association of Social Work Boards.

Preferred platforms and security 

The NSCSW does not recommend one platform over another. Whatever tools you choose for your practice, ensure you are competent in their operation.

Social workers should also be conscious and thinking about security. There have been several reports that programs are being “hacked” and meetings being interrupted. Consider whether you are using a secure internet connection rather than public/free Wi-Fi. It is also important that when you are setting up meetings or sessions with clients that you have your security settings on. Make sure that there are passwords protecting entrance to the conversation, administrative controls on sharing screens are limited, and other functions that allow you as the administrator to control access to who can enter the meeting.

There are a variety of telehealth programs available online. It is important that agencies and social workers do their research to determine the security standards in the platform and what if it meets their general needs. 

Like many regulatory bodies, the NSCSW believes that closed or private paid networks offer better computer security because they are encrypted. However, it is important to keep in mind that any web platform can theoretically be hacked or compromised. It is important for social workers to raise the risks to clients to gain consent to their use in an informed manner. 

Registration in other jurisdictions

It is also important that social workers understand the regulatory requirements of outside jurisdictions, before providing electronic social work services to clients outside of the province. It is the responsibility of each social worker to consult with the social work regulatory body in the jurisdiction in which the client resides to confirm that the social worker is adequately licensed to practice in their client’s place of residence.

Here is the contact information for our counterparts across the country:

  1. Alberta College of Social Workers — 1-800-661-3089
  2. British Columbia College of Social Workers — 1-877-576-6740
  3. Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers — 1-877-517-7279
  4. Manitoba College of Social Workers — 1-844-885-6279
  5. Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Workers — 1-877-828-9380
  6. l’Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec — 1-888-731-9420
  7. New Brunswick Association of Social Workers — 1-506-495-5595
  8. PEI Social Work Registration Board — 902-368-7337
  9. Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers —  709-753-0200

Similarly, social workers from outside Nova Scotia must prove to the NSCSW that they meet specific criteria if they wish to engage in telepractice with clients in our province.

Liability insurance 

It is important that private practitioners and agencies check with their insurance companies to ensure that they have the proper coverage. The CASW’s insurance program through BMS has produced a number of core documents for telehealth practitioners of different issues to consider; 

The BMS team can be reached at casw.insurance@bmsgroup.com.

Training and resources

The NSCSW is working on a number of resources that will allow social workers to share and reflect on their learning using telepractice. Keep checking your newsletter for more details. 

Here are some helpful tools to get you started:

Telemental Health Toolkit

The Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center (UMTRC) produced a video toolkit aimed at helping care providers prepare for using telehealth videoconferencing. The presenter for this series of tutorials is Jonathan Neufeld, PhD, Clinical Director at UMTRC. Jonathan is a psychologist who has worked with clients both in person and via video and shares his expertise throughout this 13-part series.

Practice Notes: Professional and Ethical: Communication Technology Practices and Policies for a Digital World

The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers developed this practice note on communication technology and social work practice Many social workers and social service workers use communication technologies regularly, as part of their practice. While communication technology may make some aspects of practice easier, it also requires practitioners to remain vigilant in order to ensure that they maintain clear and appropriate professional boundaries and other ethical practices

How to Set Up Your Online Couples Therapy Practice

Developed by the Gottman Institute in the US, this training offers an introduction to the do’s and don’ts of online therapy:

  • Office setting
  • Informed consent
  • Gadgets (camera, microphone, lighting)
  • Maintaining privacy and safety
  • Orienting your clients to online therapy
  • Differences between in-person vs. online therapy

Learn about the software tools available to you for virtually onboarding new clients, scheduling, taking notes, billing, and video conferencing.

Technology Trends: Training Social Workers in Telebehavioral Health Care

Over the past two decades, telebehavioral health care has expanded significantly and is now widely accepted as a legitimate option for providing care. This has been made possible in large part by the availability of high-quality, low-cost, user-friendly digital communication tools.

Current State of COVID-19: Telehealth, Liability, and Business Insurance Considerations

CASW in collaboration with BMS and Gowling WLG provided an overview of coverage considerations in relation to COVID-19 in this online webinar, which is free for NSCSW members. This session may be of interest to any social workers delivering electronic services, and includes important details for private practice clinic owners who purchase Plan 2 in the CASW Liability Insurance Program.

Open Letter: Protecting vulnerable children and youth during COVID-19 pandemic

March 27, 2020

The Honorable Stephen MacNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia
One Government Place
1713 Barrington St
Halifax, NS B3J 2A4

Honourable Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services
Department of Community Services
8th Floor, Nelson Place 
5675 Spring Garden Road
P.O. Box 696
Halifax, NS B3J 2T7

Dr. Rob Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health
17th Floor, Barrington Tower
1894 Barrington St.
P.O. Box 488
Halifax, NS B3J 2R8

Re: Protecting vulnerable children and youth during COVID-19 pandemic

Dear Premier MacNeil, Minister Regan and Dr. Strang,

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, like many in our province, is particularly concerned about vulnerable children and youth during this time of crisis. We are asking that the province implement the following steps to ensure that vulnerable children, youth and their families are protected throughout these unsettling times.

  • Ensure the Department of Community Services website is up to date with all COVID-19 news and with details on what program service providers and users can expect from the department;
  • expedite the return of children to parents where there is already a plan in the works to return the child to the parent;
  • the province pays any and all emergency or enhanced Canada Child Benefits (CCB) and work with the federal government so the province recoups this cost and this burden is not placed on vulnerable families, to be without this crucial income;
  • place a moratorium on youth aging out of care while we are in this state emergency;
  • for families who are accessing income assistance, dispense with the board rate and increase the Standard Household Rate (SHR) to ensure families receive 100% of the Market Basket Measure (MBM) for poverty (inclusive of other income supports);
  • expand the current COVID-19 eviction policy into a moratorium on all applications for vacant possession of residential premises and a halt on all pending eviction orders until at least June 1, 2020; and
  • provide short-term motel stays to everyone on the priority access waiting list for public housing. 

We want to make sure that during this unsettling time the province is doing everything in its power to ensure that children and youth are maintaining important bonds and attachment with their parents, that vulnerable families have the resources they need to self-isolate and practice social distancing and that social workers have the tools to provide the professional care to vulnerable children, youth and families in their time of great need. 

We believe that in this moment of need we must expedite the return of children to parents where there is already a plan in the works to return the child to the parent. This should be expedited as much as possible to avoid loss of parent-child bonding that cannot be done through virtual means – especially for children under the age of five. When this is not possible, the province must uphold the rights of parents with children in temporary care and custody to maintain access visits by putting the infrastructure in place to facilitate online meetings and programs. As this is happening we need to ensure that the province pay any and all emergency or enhanced CCBs and to work with the federal government so that province recoups this cost and this burden is not placed on vulnerable families. We also call for a moratorium on youth aging out of care while we are in this state of emergency. 

Given that safety and case plans are shifting as support programs close doors and staff at DCS practice social distancing, we must look to other tools to ensure that families are safe. Income is one of the core tools that we know has an impact on health and wellness of families. For families who are accessing income assistance we must dispense with the board rate and increase the SHR to ensure all families receiving Income Assistance receive 100% of the MBM for poverty (inclusive of other income supports). In addition, the province needs to rescind work search and monthly income reporting requirements for this process. It is also imperative that the province commit to not clawing back the federal Emergency Care Benefit, the Emergency Support Benefit and stop the current practice of clawing back Employment Insurance from those who supplement income assistance with employment income. 

We must make sure that vulnerable children, youth and their families have safe housing during this crisis. Expanding the current COVID-19 eviction policy into a moratorium on all applications for vacant possession of residential premises and a halt on all pending eviction orders until at least June 1, 2020, would help to ensure this. In addition, in the current crisis we must restore rent control in Nova Scotia by issuing an order-in-council to eliminate the exemption of all classes of residential premises from the Rent Review Act. Further to this we must provide short-term motel stays to everyone on the priority access waiting list for public housing. 

We know that the government is doing its very best to contain the spread of COVID-19. At this moment we encourage the government to ensure they are applying an intersectional lens, recognizing that we are a very unequal society and that capacity of those with privilege and power is different than of those who are marginalized and oppressed. We must ensure that decisions are reflective of the unique needs of vulnerable Nova Scotians. 

Kind Regards, 

Alec Stratford, MSW, RSW
Executive Director/Registrar
Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

NSCSW response to COVID-19

Social distancing measures continue to be necessary for protection of the public during this challenging time.

What this means for our office

If you wish to visit our office in Halifax, please make an appointment first, to make sure that the office will be open that day and to confirm that the person you need to speak with will be available in person. 

  • All visitors will be asked health screening questions when they make an appointment, and again when they arrive at our office. 
  • We are collecting visitor names and contact information in case contact tracing becomes necessary.
  • The public health order requires non-medical masks to be worn in all common areas of the building (lobby, elevators, restrooms, hallways, etc.) unless you are exempt from wearing one for a valid medical reason.

Our small but dedicated team of staff are on a telework rotation. When working remotely, our staff continue to check voice mail and email regularly, and will respond to all messages as soon as we can. Most meetings are being held via teleconference. 

We continue to fulfil our essential regulatory functions, including license renewal. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email or telephone if you have questions or need support. 

What this means for social workers

Social workers are supporting communities that are affected or fearful of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some of our members have asked for guidance on specific topics; we hope Alec’s recent blog posts about telepracticesocial work practice during emergency situations, and taking time for reflection are helpful.

Public health guidelines continue to change as more becomes known; we encourage all members to stay up to date on guidance and regulations that may apply to your practice. The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is helping social workers stay up to date with the latest information by maintaining a page on their website with helpful, reliable resources for health care professionals, the public, and communities.

Professional development

Professional development guidelines for social workers were temporarily changed for 2020, to accommodate and encourage self-care and reflection, and because many professional development opportunities had been cancelled or postponed (including our own 2020 conference). These temporary changes were extended until the end of 2021, but are expected to revert to normal by 2022.

We are continuing to offer online professional development to serve our members’ learning needs; our programming has included webinars offered in partnership with the CASW and open to their members across Canada, interactive workshops that require live participation, and free events open to the public. All College events will be posted on our website, and announcements will be distributed in the member newsletter.

The CASW has a robust collection of online resources for professional development. Members of our College have free access to all of their webinars, their online journal, and a full-text journal database. Visit the CASW website to learn more.

Private practice

Public health approved guidelines for reopening private practice offices in Nova Scotia beginning June 5, 2020. These guidelines were updated in October 2020, and again in August 2021.

Please review these documents carefully, as compliance is required in order for Private Practitioners to offer in-person services for elective and non-urgent care during the state of emergency. Reach out to the College if you have any questions about the updated guidelines

We’ll update this page again when Nova Scotia enters Phase 5.

This page was last updated August 25, 2021.

Social work practice during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic hits Nova Scotia, the impact on our collective well-being will be felt. The pandemic won’t just impact our physical health, but our mental health as well. In these stressful times professionals from different specialties are called upon to get involved. The goal of social workers in a crisis is to holistically resolve problems through social intervention.

The goals of social work professionals in emergency situations, according to Herrero (2012), are:

  • Provide information about the opportunities that social groups have available to them.
  • Motivate people to have access to those opportunities.
  • Help victims manage their feelings and emotions.
  • Help people learn new ways to face their problems. Show them how to think about their new situation in a different way.
  • Help victims recover their psychological equilibrium.
  • Process the event with those affected so that they can move on with their lives.
  • Establish or facilitate communication between people in crisis.
  • Help individuals or families have a clear understanding of the situation.
  • Restore the individual’s homeostasis with their surroundings. In other words, help them adapt to their new situation.

As individuals, organizations and communities practice social distancing, it remains clear that people will need to access the professional support of their social workers. We must remain compassionate and in solidarity with those that are most vulnerable.

The NSCSW recommends that where social worker workplace responsibilities allow they should engage in telepractice. Through phone calls, emails, and video chats we can continue to keep our human connections strong. 

As social workers we have standards and guidelines that we can follow for the purpose of telepractice. Contemporary social workers can provide services to individual clients by using:

  • online counselling,
  • telephone counselling,
  • videoconferencing,
  • self-guided web-based interventions,
  • electronic social networks,
  • mobile apps,
  • automated tutorials,
  • email,
  • text messages,
  • and a host of other services.

Social workers’ use of technology has created new ways to interact and communicate with clients, raising fundamentally new questions about the meaning of the social worker–client relationship. In addition, social workers use various forms of technology to access, gather, and otherwise manage information about clients. Social workers maintain encrypted electronic records, store sensitive information on their smartphones and in the “cloud,” and have the capacity to search for information about clients using Internet search engines. Social workers use technology in creative ways to address compelling social justice issues, organize communities, administer organizations, and develop social policy. Social workers also explore and develop new technologies for practice and disseminate them with colleagues. For further information and clarification please refer to Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice, published by the National College of Social Workers and Association of Social Work Boards.

Social workers may have clients who are headed out of the province to be with family and friends as they are social distancing. Most jurisdictions have regulatory provisions for licensing mobility for emergency situations, so it is important to check in with the regulatory organization in each region where your clients have headed to confirm what their requirements are. Here are the contacts:

  1. Alberta College of Social Workers — 1-800-661-3089
  2. British Columbia College of Social Workers — 1-877-576-6740
  3. Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers — 1-877-517-7279
  4. Manitoba College of Social Workers — 1-844-885-6279
  5. Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Workers — 1-877-828-9380
  6. l’Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec — 1-888-731-9420
  7. New Brunswick Association of Social Workers — 1-877-495-5595
  8. PEI Social Work Registration Board — 902-368-7337
  9. Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers —  709-753-0200

It also fundamentally important that you take steps to support yourself.

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others (within the limits of social distancing) and talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

If you are a frontline provider, responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you. There are things you can do to reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS) reactions:

  • Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
  • Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.
  • Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family (within the limits of social distancing), exercising, or reading a book.
  • Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

Learn more tips for taking care of yourself during emergency response.

Ultimately this is an evolving situation, and things will likely change. To stay up to date with information relevant to social workers, please make use of the resource page being maintained by the Canadian Association of Social Workers: 

» Coronavirus (COVID-19) social work resources

I am proud to be a member of this profession, and confident in what our members can accomplish in partnership with your colleagues and your communities. Take care of yourselves, and one another.

Alec Stratford
NSCSW Executive Director/Registrar

Raising expectations for Nova Scotia’s future

National Social Work Month is an opportunity to reflect on how we enact the values of our profession within the communities where we live and practice. This month, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers, in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS), released a new report titled Creating the future we all deserve: A social policy framework for Nova Scotia.

The NSCSW is incredibly proud to partner with CCPA-NS on this important framework. Our profession is founded on humanitarian and egalitarian ideals. We envision and work towards a society that promotes social, economic and political equity. We acknowledge that significant change needs to happen at the local, community, provincial, national and global level, in order for the injustices and harms that we see daily to be addressed or remedied. The profession works in solidarity with our clients, organizations and communities, and with Nova Scotians who are vulnerable, oppressed and dealing with the hurtful outcomes of society. This is why the NSCSW is so proud to partner with the CCPA-NS to create this important tool. It is our hope that the framework will be utilized by all Nova Scotians to transform our society into one that belongs to all of us: one that is grounded in shared responsibility for creating a strong, connected, and supportive society.

The Social Policy Framework is being introduced at a critical time in Nova Scotia as we have continued to see our governments, at all levels, implement policies and programs that have resulted in greater inequity. In the past three decades, we have seen increasing globalization along with the rise of neo-liberalism and unprecedented technological change. This has had a profound impact on our climate, our workforce and the overall well-being of our society. These trends have combined to leave the most vulnerable Nova Scotians to carry the greatest burden of these decisions. Our political system has failed to develop an economy and public services that are inclusive of all Nova Scotians. Governments have continued to mark their success on the growth and expansion of the economy with hopes that a growing economy will bene t all. This approach has led our political leaders to ignore the indicators that the overall well-being of our population continues to deteriorate, which leads them to put their head in the sand when it comes to creating public policy that would positively impact our health, climate and economy.

The need for progressive organizations to add to the political dialogue with thoughtful progressive social policy solutions is now greater than ever if we are to capture the hope and aspirations for a society in which all Nova Scotians ourish. The goal of the social policy framework is for organizations to raise their voices and counter the trends that have led to:

  • Rising inequality and the continued class divide between the rich and the poor, which have allowed the voices of oppressed particularly those of our racialized communities to go unnoticed, eroded trust, and increased anxiety and illness for all;
  • Entrenchment of the patriarchy, which has pitted rational thought against emotional thought and devalues the work of professional care which is predominantly done by women;
  • Governments enacting austerity policies (expanding corporate in uence in the process) to cut the cost of care, institutionalize new management systems, and centralize government services, leading to highly top-down bureaucratic systems;
  • Managerialism that devalues and deskills professional competence, and creates a management framework which aims to run govern- ment services like a business — searching for e ciencies rather than promoting human connection.

These trends have had a profound impact on the ability of Nova Scotians to receive the services and care that they rely on, and to make our economy one that works for all of us. What is needed is a fundamental paradigm shift in our political goals. As Nova Scotians, we need to ensure that the goal of increasing well-being is equal to the goal of a developing a strong economy. The Social Policy Framework is designed to be at the root of this change. It creates a vision and a road map for Nova Scotians that:

  • Addresses inequality through public policy aimed at redistributing wealth and building an economy that works for everyone, creating a society where political decisions are made in the interest of all, not for an elite few.
  • Addresses the need to work for the public good through public policy that focuses on climate justice, investments in health and social services, the decolonization of public service and that values professional care.
  • Addresses the need to build public policy through collaborative decision-making embedded in an intersectional lens. Through this process, we can support participatory communities in which all voices are heard.
  • Addresses systemic oppression through public policy that leads to transformative change. Policy that supports all of us to acknowledge oppressive attitudes and assumptions by allowing us to share our stories and heal the hurts imposed by our conditioning, to act in the present in a humane and caring manner, to rebuild our human connection.

We hope that this framework provides you with inspiration and hope that a more fair, just and progressive Nova Scotia is possible.

Alec Stratford
NSCSW Executive Director/Registrar

» Download Creating the future we all deserve: A social policy framework for Nova Scotia

» Watch the recording of the media conference on our Facebook page

Province says we’ll be “Better Together,” but when?

On February 25, 2020, the Nova Scotia government tabled what they claimed to be a balanced budget: a budget that lowered corporate taxes and reduced per capita social expenditures. The theme of this budget is “Better Together,” which promotes the idea that a collective response to our current struggles is needed.

The government’s own business plan acknowledges the need for an inclusive approach to our future that is rooted in social and economic well-being, sustainability and equity. The budget also acknowledges the needs that vulnerable children, youth and families face. Social workers across the province are pleased to see a focus on vulnerable children and youth but remain concerned that the government is taking incremental steps and is not heeding their own words that we are in fact “Better Together.”

It’s important to put this budget into context and reflect on the fiscal policy tools put forward, the underlying philosophy, and the evidence that this approach will reach the desired outcomes. 

The government included a $54.3 million increase to the Department of Community Services which saw an $18 million increase for the Nova Scotia Child Benefit, $1.9 million to expand prevention and early intervention programs, $1.5 million for residential placements and programming support. Both the IWK and NSHA received a minor $7 million increase in funding for Mental Health and Addiction Services. The government is also raising the minimum wage by a dollar to $12.55 starting April 1, 2020. These are positive investments that align with some of what the NSCSW and our allies have called for.

However, although these changes are steps in the right direction they are crumbs compared to the need that exists. The report on Child and Family Poverty released early this year by the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) demonstrates that the Market Basket Measure for poverty (Canada’s official poverty line) indicates that a single mother with two kids would require an income of at $36,778 a year to be above the poverty line; current income supports for the family sit at $24,280 leaving an income gap of $1079 a month to be at the poverty line. The changes to the Child Benefit and low-income threshold amount to a change of roughly $32.00 a month. Clearly this isn’t enough to lift that family out of poverty.

Increases in prevention services, residential placements, and mental health and addictions are also important steps to bring the child-welfare system away from the brink. However, good intervention and prevention require the tools to build meaningful case plans in solidarity with families. We are experiencing a housing crisis, mental health and addiction access and approaches remain problematic, food security continues to be a huge problem, and complexity of needs compared to caseload sizes creates real challenges for meaningful prevention efforts. This budget provides no real solutions, and no real tools to ensure greater social well-being.

What remains clear is the current government’s philosophical approach is founded in a stubborn faith in a broken, debunked dogma. Our government continues to create policy based on an ideology that champions trickle-down economic theories and a belief that the free market is capable of tackling the deep structural issues that keep poverty so entrenched and impair the well-being of our vulnerable children and youth. The big-ticket item in the Nova Scotia budget is the two percent corporate tax cut (from 16%) at $70.5 million, plus a decrease in the small business tax (from 3% to 2.5%) at a cost of $10.5 million. These tax cuts will cost $81 million, but the premier says he is “convinced that money would go back into the economy, spurring further growth.” 

As CCPA senior economist David MacDonald writes, “Canada’s long running (and very expensive) experiment in corporate tax rates–to see if lowering them to compete with U.S. levels leads to extra investment in the economy–was more or less a failure. Companies used the differential to enrich themselves and their shareholders.” The federal corporate tax rates alone went from 28% in 2000 to 15%. MacDonald has found that while these rates plummeted, payments to shareholders, through dividends or share buybacks, doubled as a share of GDP, while corporations hoarded cash. And most of those who are being enriched are in corporations headquartered elsewhere.

What this budget clearly shows is that while the wealthiest and elite in our society have a public and political voice that allows them to put forward policy that benefits them—and only them. The most vulnerable children and youth remain unrepresented, and the fiscal and social policy required to create greater well-being for them is implemented at such an incremental rate that the desired outcomes will surely remain out of reach. What is most disappointing in this budget is that once again the government missed an opportunity to create an organization that would have allowed vulnerable children and youth to have an active voice in shaping and influencing the policies that would benefit them: an independent Child and Youth Advocate office. 

Children and youth still struggle to have their stories heard, their rights acknowledged, and their voices heeded as part of the decision-making process on the systems and programs that affect them. Social workers know that our society moves towards greater equality when the voices of the vulnerable and marginalized are raised up and given space. Creating a Child and Youth Advocate office would have ensured that the voices of our province’s children and youth would be at the forefront of the policies and programs that actively serve them.

It is safe to say that this not a balanced budget. This approach to fiscal and social policy will continue to contribute to the social debt by ensuring that inequality continues to rise. Critical reflection at this juncture is required. We need to examine our current philosophy regarding the role of the market, government and civil society. If we fail to create a new social contract to build greater equity then we are doomed to keep seeing more of the same: class division between rich and poor, which allows the voices of the oppressed (particularly those of our racialized communities) to go unnoticed; erosion of public trust; and increased anxiety and illness for all.

We invite all Nova Scotians to reflect on the theme of the budget; building a future in which we are truly “Better Together” will require us to collectively reconsider our beliefs and assumptions, and be open to shifting them.

Alec Stratford is the executive director and registrar of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers.