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.

Governments at all levels are strongly encouraging the use of widespread social distancing.  The safety of social workers, their clients and the public is of utmost importance.  Where possible, the College encourages social workers to provide electronic social work services (see Electronic Social Work Practice section on this page) and reduce/suspend non-essential services until further notice, in keeping with the recommendations of Manitoba Health.

On March 30, 2020, the Government of Manitoba issued a public health order to come into effect on April 1, 2020, requiring all non-critical businesses in Manitoba to close until April 14, 2020.  Social work services may continue as an essential service in accordance with section 5(2) of the order as follows:

Any other health professional who is authorized to practise their profession may provide services to, or on behalf of,

(a) the Government of Canada, the Government of Manitoba or a municipality;

(b) any person or publicly funded agency, organization or authority that delivers  or supports government operations and services, including health care operations and services; and

(c) any business that is listed in the Schedule.

In addition, any authorized health professional may provide urgent or emergent care.

Note that section 3(3) of the order allows businesses to operate remotely for the purpose of providing services online, by telephone or other remote means.

For information regarding businesses listed in the Schedule, including health care, seniors care, social services, justice services and professional services, please review the full Public Health Act Order.


Direct Client Contact

Many social workers are providing critical and essential frontline services that require ongoing direct contact.  If members must be in direct contact with clients, 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.

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

Department of Families – Service Practice Guidelines

Department of Families – Family Visitation


Travel to Outside Communities

Social workers considering travel to outside communities to provide social work services are encouraged to 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.


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 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.


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.


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


Pyschosocial Support to Others and Self Care

Temporary changes to accepted mental health practitioners

Until April 24, 2020, social workers will be included as mental health professionals along with psychologists for all 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.


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.



The Canadian Association of Social Workers continues to update their website with timely COVID-19 resources for members.

Service Canada provides information relating to employment insurance, emergency care and support benefits, child tax benefits and student loan repayment plans.

Other Resources


College Operations

The Manitoba College of Social Workers’ office continues to operate with staff on-site to process applications and respond to public and member inquiries.  All scheduled events/public presentations have been postponed and meetings are being held electronically. Although the office is closed to walk-ins, staff remain available via email and telephone and documents can be delivered through the mail slot during regular operating hours.  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.