- Social work as a profession believes in the inherent value of each person. As a result, all people receiving the services of a social worker are entitled to be treated fairly, respectfully and ethically. While the majority of social workers abide by these standards, from time to time circumstances do arise that lead to a complaint against a social worker being filed. In keeping with its primary role of the protection of the public, the NBASW has a Complaints Committee whose mandate is to consider and investigate complaints of professional misconduct, incompetence and/or breach of the Code of Ethics (Section 21 of the Act).
What is a Complaint?
A complaint is a statement expressing a person’s belief that a registered social worker or a former registered social worker has practiced in an unprofessional manner.
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone who believes that they or someone they know has been harmed by a social worker may make a complaint. A report must be submitted by an employer or any person who has ‘terminated or suspended the employment of a member or who imposes restrictions on the practice of a member for reason of professional misconduct or incompetence within thirty days after the termination, suspension or imposition’ (See s.31.7(1) of the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers Act, 1988)
All registered social workers have an obligation to notify the Association when they believe or have reason to believe that a colleague is guilty of malpractice or professional misconduct. If the person making the complaint is not the person who was directly affected by the violation, clients should be named only if they have given their consent.
How to make a complaint?
Anyone who wishes to submit a complaint, should do so in writing in the form of a letter or report and address it to the Registrar of the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers, P.O. Box 1533, Station A, Fredericton, NB E3B 5G2 and mark the envelope confidential. If the person who wants to make a complaint is unable to provide a written complaint, he or she should contact the Executive Director.
What must be included in the complaint?
- Should include all the relevant details to ensure a full understanding of the allegation.
- Should be accompanied by any documentation that could support the allegations, the names of any persons able to attest to the allegations and any other relevant information.
- Contact information (telephone number and address) of the person/s making the complaint.
- Must be signed and dated by the person/s making the complaint.
What happens after a complaint is made?
- The Registrar sends a letter to the maker of the complaint acknowledging receipt of thecomplaint.
- The Registrar seeks a response from the social worker who is the subject of the complaint. The social worker is given two (2) weeks to respond to the complaint or make a request in writing to the Registrar for an extension, giving reasons for the request;
- Once the response is received by the Registrar, it is forwarded to the Complaints Committee for its review;
- If, after reviewing the response from the social worker, the Complaints Committee is satisfied that no further action is warranted, the complaint will be dismissed.
If the Complaints Committee believes that further action is warranted, the Committee may pursue one of two options:
- carry out a more in-depth investigation; or
- if the Committee determines that it has sufficient information, it may refer the matter to the Discipline Committee.
- If the Committee carries out a more in-depth investigation, it will, once it has the results of the investigation in hand, decide to take one of the following steps:
- direct that the complaint be dismissed;
direct that the complaint be referred to the Discipline Committee; or
- take such action as it considers appropriate under the circumstances to resolve the complaint as long as such action is not inconsistent with the NBASW Act or the By-laws.
When is a complaint dismissed?
A complaint is dismissed if there is insufficient information to support the allegations or if it is deemed to be frivolous or based only on malice.
What can the maker of a complaint do if he/she is dissatisfied with the Complaints Committee’s decision to dismiss the complaint?
If the maker of a complaint is dissatisfied with the decision to take no further action on his/her complaint, he or she may request that the Board of Directors carry out a review of the process. This is not an appeal of the Committee’s decision. The Board will review the treatment of the case in order to ensure that the Complaints Committee took all the steps necessary in considering and disposing of the complaint. Should the Board decide that further steps should have been taken, the Board will instruct the Complaints Committee to take such further steps and report back to the Board of Directors on its findings and whether or not the Complaints Committee wishes to change its decision. Should the Board be satisfied that the Complaints Committee took all the steps necessary, no further action will be required. The Board will subsequently advise the maker of the complaint of the outcome of the review process. This decision will be considered final.
What happens if a complaint is referred to discipline?
A complaint that is referred to discipline is forwarded to the Discipline Committee. The role of the Discipline Committee is to ‘hear and determine any allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence on the part of a member of the Association’ (New Brunswick Association of Social Workers Act, 1988).
What does the Discipline Committee do?
The Discipline Committee holds a discipline hearing to hear evidence regarding a complaint. From the evidence, the Committee makes a judgment as to whether the social worker has committed an act of professional misconduct, incompetence, and/or violated the Code of Ethics. Following the hearing, the Discipline Committee will meet to review the evidence given, make a decision on the respondent’s guilt or innocence regarding each allegation and on the disciplinary action that is being required.
This decision will be forwarded to the registrar who will forward a copy to the social worker as well as to the maker of the complaint.
How is a hearing conducted?
The hearing is conducted in a manner similar to that of judicial court. All parties may be represented by legal counsel.
Examples of disciplinary action (See sections 23(4) of the NBASW Act, 1988 for a full list of actions).
- revoke the social worker's right to practice or suspend it for a specified period of time;
- impose terms, conditions and/or limitations on right to practice, such as supervision, reporting, and/or inspection;
- impose a fine; and/or
- publish the decision.
If you would like more information about the Complaint and Discipline process, please do not hesitate to contact the Executive Director
P.O. Box 1533, Station "A", Fredericton, NB E3B 5G2
Toll Free: 1-877-495-5595