Social Workers are obligated to practice safely, competently and ethically in accordance with the Manitoba College of Social Workers Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. One key role of the College is to consider and investigate complaints made by any member of the public (including clients, colleagues, and employers) regarding the conduct of Social Workers registered with the College. Because its primary mandate is to protect the public interest, the College has a responsibility to assess all complaints, ensuring a fair and just process.
If there are concerns about the actions or behaviour of a Social Worker in Manitoba, the first step is for the concerned individual to confirm that the person is registered with the Manitoba College of Social Workers by checking the online Register of Social Workers.
The Manitoba College of Social Workers has the authority to investigate written complaints relating to the conduct of a member of the College. The College may not have jurisdiction to investigate a complaint concerning conduct that occurred before the practitioner was registered with the College or after the person is no longer registered with the College.
Who may make a complaint?
Anyone can make a complaint against a Social Worker in Manitoba who is registered with the College. This may include a client, another Social Worker, an employer, another professional or someone else in the community.
When must a complaint be made?
There is generally no time limit in which to make a complaint; however, a delay in making a complaint may affect the process. For example, a lengthy delay may result in relevant documents or witnesses to be unavailable, which may impact the investigation and resolution of the complaint.
In the event that a complaint is made against a former member of the College the complaint must relate to conduct that occurred while the individual was registered as a Social Worker and be reported within 5 years of the last date of the member’s former registration.
What if a complaint concerns more than one member of the College?
A separate complaint must be filed in connection with the conduct or actions of each Social Worker.
Is the complaint process confidential?
Yes, with a few exceptions. Relevant information or documents you share with the College will also be shared with the Social Worker. This is so that both the Complainant and the Social Worker can respond to information that will be reviewed by the Complaints Committee. As part of the complaints process, Social Workers may disclose pertinent confidential information when required to respond to a formal allegation of misconduct.
Although the College aims to maintain confidentiality in investigations, there are occasions when information or documents provided are shared with relevant collaterals in order to gather information to inform the investigation. Should the matter be referred to the Inquiry Committee, any documents or information provided during the course of a complaints investigation may be used at a hearing, which is open to the public.
Submitting a complaint
- Complaints must be submitted in writing and be signed by the person making the complaint. A complaint submission must include:
- Name and contact information (address and telephone numbers) of the person making the complaint.
- Name of the Social Worker who is the subject of the complaint.
- A statement regarding the conduct or actions of the Social Worker with sufficient details including;
- a description of the conduct or actions of the Social Worker giving rise to the complaint,
- the date(s), time(s), and place(s) of the event or events giving rise to the complaint, if known.
- Any documentation that could support the allegations, the names of any person who can attest to the allegations and any other relevant information.
- The signature of the person making the complaint.
Are lawyers required to represent complainants/Social Workers?
The decision to obtain legal counsel is left to the discretion of the complainant and Social Worker involved. Legal counsel is not required in order to submit or respond to a complaint made to the Manitoba College of Social Workers.
What happens after the written complaint is received by the College?
If the complaint is regarding a member or former member of the College and eligible for review (see When must a complaint be made?), the matter is referred to the Complaints Committee. The Social Worker who is the subject of a complaint is also notified and provided a copy of the complaint. Social Workers are required to respond to the College regarding complaints made against them within a specified time frame. The Complaints Committee may request additional information from the complainant following receipt of the initial complaint.
Who reviews complaints?
Complaints brought against Social Workers are reviewed by the College Complaints Committee, which is comprised of members of the College and public members. Depending on the complexity of the matter the Complaints Committee may appoint an investigator.
Does the individual who filed the complaint or the Social Worker complained against meet with the Complaints Committee?
Neither the individual who filed the complaint nor the Social Work complained against is entitled to meet with the Complaints Committee. Interviews are arranged at the discretion of the Committee.
What decisions can be made by the Complaints Committee?
According to Sections 30(1) and 31(1) of The Social Work Profession Act the Complaints Committee has the authority to take any of the following actions:
- resolve the matter informally
- direct that the matter to the Inquiry Committee
- accept the voluntary surrender of the member’s registration
- censure the member (formal reprimand)
- refer the matter to mediation if the Committee determines that the complaint is strictly a matter of concern to the complainant and the member and both parties agree to mediation
- enter into an agreement with the member that provides for one or more of the following:
- assessing the member’s capacity or fitness to practice social work,
- counselling or treatment of the member,
- monitoring or supervising the member’s practice of social work,
- completion of a specified course of studies by way of remedial training,
- placing conditions on the member’s right to practice social work.
Please be advised that it can take several months for a complaint to be investigated and reviewed before a decision is made depending on the complexity of the complaint.
Can the College Complaints Committee award money or provide a personal remedy to a complainant?
No. There is no such provision for such remedies in the Act, the Regulations or the Bylaws.
Dismissal of a complaint
A complaint may be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations or where the allegations, even if true, do not constitute unprofessional conduct. If a complaint is dismissed, both the Complainant and the Social Worker will be advised in writing that no further action will be taken.
What is an Agreement?
In some cases, the Social Worker may enter into an Agreement in order to resolve the complaint. An Agreement is a contract between the Social Worker and the College to resolve issues arising from the complaint. An Agreement may include, but are not limited to, additional training, counseling/treatment or a period of mandated supervision.
When an Agreement is reached with a Social Worker, the Complainant shall be made aware of that decision. If the allegation is not satisfactorily resolved through an Agreement, or if the Social Worker fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, the matter will return to the Complaints Committee for review.
What happens if a complaint is referred to the Inquiry Committee?
A complaint that is considered very serious and/or a complaint that cannot be resolved through an Agreement may be referred to the Inquiry Committee, which is made up of members of the College and members of the public. The role of the Inquiry Committee panel is to hear and determine any allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence on the part of a member of the College. If a matter is referred to the Inquiry Committee, there will be a formal hearing of the complaint.
Complainants do not need to hire legal counsel. However, complainants may have to testify as a witness at a disciplinary hearing.
What decisions can be made by the Inquiry Committee?
- If the Inquiry Committee panel finds that the member is not guilty of Unprofessional Conduct, it shall dismiss the charge.
- Where the Inquiry Committee panel finds that the member is guilty of Unprofessional Conduct, it may, according to Section 52(1) of the Act:
- Reprimand the member
- Suspend the certificate of registration for a stated period
- Suspend the member’s Certificate of Registration until he or she has completed a specified course of studies or supervised practical experience or both, to the satisfaction of any person or committee that the panel may determine
- Accept in place of the suspension of the Certificate of Registration, the member’s undertaking to limit his or her practice
- Impose conditions on the member’s entitlement to practice social work, including conditions that he or she
- Practice under supervision
- Report on specified matters to any person or committee that the panel may determine
- Require the member to satisfy a person or committee specified by the panel that a disability or addiction can be or has been overcome, and suspend the member’s Certificate of Registration until the person or committee is satisfied
- Require the member to take counseling or treatment
- Cancel the Certificate of Registration
Is there an appeals process?
There is a right of appeal for complainants who disagree with a decision of the College Complaints Committee. In order to appeal, a complainant must provide written notice of appeal to the College Registrar within 30 days after the date the complainant is given notice of the decision.
Social Workers may appeal a finding or order by the Inquiry Committee panel to the Court of Appeal within 30 days from the date the Social Worker is given notice of the decision.