Guidance for Members relating to COVID-19

This webpage has been established to provide members with up-to-date information regarding the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please check frequently for updates.

Social workers play a key role in providing ongoing and crisis-based social work services during this time due to the increased need for services related to health, mental health, basic need fulfilment, employment and income support planning, safety planning for vulnerable children and families, advocacy and the dissemination of accurate information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The College acknowledges social workers on the frontlines providing these critical services to the public and those developing and managing programs and policies to respond to this pandemic.

Provincial Response Level

Effective November 12, 2020 all regions of the province moved to the Critical (red) level of the #RestartMB Pandemic Response System to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Under the current health order, social workers may continue to provide services as a regulated profession.  Social workers are encouraged to provide service remotely whenever possible.  In the event that in-person services are required, social workers must adhere to mandatory requirements (i.e. physical distancing, mask use etc.) and should review the general workplace guidance provided by the Government of Manitoba.

Orders under The Public Health Act

The Province of Manitoba – Workplace Precautions

For more information regarding cautions, travel restrictions and other limitations that may impact your social work practice, please visit the Government of Manitoba website.

For helpful information regarding mask use, please review the following:

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-masks-faq-sept-25-2020.pdf

Phase 3 – Restoring Safe Services

Social workers must continue to monitor and adhere to requirements and guidelines issued by Manitoba Health if they are continuing to see clients in-person including physical distancing, strict hand hygiene and self-screening procedures.  Additional recommendations regarding workplace protocol, including pre-screening clients, enhanced cleaning and limiting interaction between employees are provided in the links below:

https://www.gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/proactive/2020_2021/restoring-safe-services-phase-3.pdf

https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/restoring/guidance.html

https://manitoba.ca/covid19/soe.html

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/screening-tool/

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-primary-care-providers-in-community.pdf

For additional information regarding COVID-19 responses and recommendations, please review the following websites:

https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/coronavirus/index.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/health-providers/coronavirus-resources/

https://www.who.int/

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Direct Client Contact

The College endorses the recommendations of Manitoba Health, Shared Health and Health Canada regarding general guidelines related to the prevention and monitoring of COVID-19.  Social workers are encouraged to provide service remotely whenever possible.  In the event that in-person services are required, social workers should review the general workplace guidance provided by the Government of Manitoba.

The Province of Manitoba – Workplace Precautions

Contact Tracing

Social workers providing or considering providing in-person social work services should be aware of the possibility that health officials may require the disclosure of client information for the purpose of “contact tracing” in order to respond to this pandemic.  In the event that a social worker and/or a client becomes infected with COVID-19,  it is possible that health officials may require disclosure of the names of those with whom the social worker has had contact in order to mitigate the public health risk.  Given that compliance with any health orders or laws is mandatory, social workers  must consider this possibility when deciding whether to provide in-person social work services and ensure that the possibility of disclosure of client names in these circumstances is included as part of confidentiality/informed consent discussions and documentation.

The following resources provide additional guidance to social workers providing ongoing services that require home visits/direct contact with clients:

https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/restoring/phase-one.html

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-guidance-on-home-visits.pdf

Department of Families – Service Practice Guidelines

Department of Families – Family Visitation

Social workers employed with Manitoba Families in CFS Agencies, CFS Authorities and Community Care can find additional practice information here:

https://manitoba.ca/covid19/infomanitobans/famcirculars.html

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Travel to Outside Communities

Social workers considering travel to outside communities to provide social work services are encouraged to reference the Government of Manitoba website and/or contact local health and community leaders to discuss any restrictions or requests they may have relating to external service providers entering their communities at this time.

http://www.manitoba.ca/covid19/restartmb/prs/index.html

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Modification, Reduction or Termination of Services

Social workers must use their professional judgement and plan with their employers/unions to establish which services are essential and/or require direct client contact and determine the frequency, type and level of social work services necessary to ensure continuity of care, client safety and client well-being during this pandemic.  This will vary based on employment/practice settings, client population and position responsibilities and is not necessarily linked to any specific position classification.

When considering modification, reduction or termination of services, social workers must ensure clear communication with clients regarding the provision of services and provide options for alternate methods of service delivery and/or service providers to ensure ongoing access to services.  Social workers must obtain necessary consents if arranging transfer of service to alternate providers.

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-workplace-and-hr-faqs.pdf

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Redeployment & Scope of Practice Considerations

Social Workers have a long tradition of stepping forward during times of crisis to aid their fellow community members.  During this time of pandemic, social workers have been called upon once again to provide critical professional services and supports.  Some social workers have been redeployed or asked to provide services outside of their usual range of work.  In all cases, social workers must ensure that they are competent before providing services.  Social workers are encouraged to consider the following questions prior to undertaking new tasks:

  1. Am I competent to provide this service?
  2. Have I received sufficient training to provide this service safely?
  3. Will I receive adequate supervision to ensure I am providing the service safely and appropriately?
  4. Is the task a “reserved act” as defined in The Regulated Health Professions Act? Am I legally entitled to perform this task?
  5. Does my personal/employer’s professional liability insurance provide coverage for me to perform this service?
  6. Is this service/task consistent with the MCSW Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice?
  7. Do I need to consult further with my employer or with the College prior to proceeding?

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Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Social workers across Canada are performing essential services that may require access to PPE.  As a federation partner of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), MCSW joined CASW in advocating for social workers to have appropriate access to PPE.

https://www.casw-acts.ca/en/letter-minister-hajdu-and-minister-hussen-regarding-social-workers-and-personal-protective-equipment

Members who require access to Personal Protective Equipment are now eligible to purchase PPE supplies at a discounted rate as a CASW member benefit.  View/order PPE and safety supplies via the following link: https://healthsupplies.biz/

Please contact the College if access to PPE is an issue impacting your practice so that the College can continue to advocate and take action accordingly.

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Remote Social Work Practice

Social workers considering remote practice in alternate settings are encouraged to review the College’s Electronic Social Work Practice Information Sheet.  When working in alternate settings, social workers must ensure ongoing best practice with respect to confidentiality, document storage and access to file records in accordance with the College’s Standards of Practice.

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Electronic Social Work Practice/Consent

Many social workers have responded by adapting their practice to ensure continued client access to social work services through electronic means. Social Social workers considering practicing electronically are encouraged to review the College’s Electronic Social Work Practice Information Sheet.

Under the current circumstances, the College understands that it may not be possible for social workers to obtain written consent in accordance with Standard 5.12.  The College accepts that  social workers may be required to accept verbal consent in some instances.  If obtaining verbal consent, social workers must document this verbal consent and the reasons written consent was not obtained.  Where possible, email verification of consent would be considered best practice.

Electronic Practice Resources

https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2018-09/E_Mental_Health_Implementation_Toolkit_2018_eng.pdf

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-virtual-visit-solutions.pdf

http://www.casw.bmsgroup.com/downloads/COVID-19_Telehealth-Resource_2020.pdf

https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=fN67-dWQReM%3d&portalid=0

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Psychosocial Support to Others and Self Care

Temporary changes to accepted mental health practitioners

Social workers are included as mental health professionals along with psychologists for all Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) members and eligible dependants, regardless of where they are located.

To be covered for services by a social worker all claims must be sent by mail using a completed PSHCP Claim Form (PDF, 614 KB) for Supplementary Coverage or a PSHCP Claim Form for Out-of-Country Claims for Comprehensive Coverage. Attach supporting documentation (original receipts, bills, invoices, physician or practitioner statements, and/or questionnaires, etc.). Mail the form to the address indicated on the form along with the supporting documentation.

The Government of Manitoba has partnered with Morneau Shepell to provide free mental health support to residents of Manitoba during the COVID-19 pandemic through AbilitiCBT.  Many social workers are contracted to provide this service through Morneau Shepell.  Starting on October 13, 2020, Manitoba Residents aged 16 or older who are coping with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety are eligible for up to two free counseling sessions through the Mental Health Virtual Therapy Program.

https://manitoba.ca/covid19/bewell/virtualtherapy.html

Many resources have been developed relating to key mental health and psychosocial support considerations.  Members are encouraged to reach out to each other and take time for self-care as our profession steps forward to provide services and support to others.

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/briefing-note-covid-and-mental-health.pdf

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/guidance-and-tools-to-support-mental-wellness.pdf

https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/responders.asp

https://news.gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/newslinks/2020/03/BG-QA_iCBT-PR.pdf

https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/collaboration-health.pdf

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College Operations

The Manitoba College of Social Workers’ office is closed to the public.  Staff remain on-site to respond to the needs of applicants, members and the public. Documents can continue to be delivered through the mail slot during regular operating hours.

All scheduled events/public presentations have been postponed and meetings are being held electronically. In order to support social distancing recommendations and recognizing that Canada Post is not currently requiring signatures for registered mail, the College is currently using email to send all letters and correspondence. 

The College appreciates the hard work and dedication of social workers across the province leading and supporting others through this difficult time. The College remains available to provide consultation to members regarding ethical or practice concerns as we navigate this situation together.

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