Who can submit a complaint?

Anyone may submit a complaint in writing against a social worker who is/was registered in New Brunswick. A complaint may refer to:

  • Professional misconduct
  • Incompetence
  • Breach of the NBASW Code of Ethics

If you are not sure whether an individual is registered with the NBASW, you can call the Association or visit the Member Registry.

All social workers have an obligation to notify the Association when they believe or have reason to believe that a colleague, who is a social worker, is guilty of malpractice or professional misconduct.

A Report must be submitted by an employer or any person who has been:

  • Terminated;
  • Suspended; or
  • Imposed restrictions on the practice of a member for reason of professional misconduct or incompetence within 30 days after the termination, suspension or imposition.

How do I submit a complaint?

Anyone who wishes to submit a complaint, must complete the Complaint Form and send it to NBASW Registrar, Martine Paquet, at martine.paquet@nbasw-attsnb.ca.

If you are unable to make a complaint in writing, please contact us.

What should be included in the complaint?

The Complaint Form must be completed, dated and signed by the person making the complaint.

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.

The following information must be included on the Complaint Form:

  1. The full name, address, email and phone number of the person making the complaint
  2. The name of the social worker
  3. The details of the relationship with the social worker
  4. The details regarding the matter to ensure a full understanding of the complaint (“who, what, when, where, why and how.”)
  5. Supporting documentation can be attached (Format Word, PDF, JPEG and PNG).

Can my complaint remain anonymous?

The Complaints Committee has no authority to investigate allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence from anonymous sources.

What steps should I take before submitting a complaint?

Before submitting a complaint, did you talk with the social worker to see if you can resolve the matter? If you still have concerns, did you talk with the social worker's supervisor?

What happens next?

What happens when I submit a complaint?

  • You will receive an email and a registered letter acknowledging that your complaint has been received by the Registrar.
  • The social worker will be provided a copy of the complaint and given two weeks to provide a written response or can make a request in writing to the Registrar for an extension, giving reasons for the request.
  • A copy of your complaint will be forwarded to the Complaints Committee.
  • Next, the Complaints Committee will hold a meeting to review the Complaint and the Reply.
  • When the Complaints Committee has concluded its investigation and consideration, a copy of the Complaints Committee’s decision and reasons will be provided to the person filing the complaint and the social worker.

How long does the complaints process take?

The Complaints Committee’s objective is to consider and investigate all complaints in a timely manner. Please contact the Registrar for details about the status of your complaint.

Who is part of the Complaints Committee?

The Committee is composed of not fewer than two members, and at least one person who is a public representative. None of the Committee members shall be members of the Board.

What if I have a personal/professional relationship with a member of the Committee?

It is the duty of each member of the Committee to disclose any potential conflict of interest. If the Chairperson determines a conflict, an alternate member will be appointed to the Committee.

What is the mandate of the Complaints Committee?

The Complaints Committee’s mandate is to consider and investigate the conduct of a member when a written complaint has been filed with the Registrar. The Committee does not hear testimony and does not meet with the person filing the complaint or the social worker in person.

The Complaints Committee may:

  • Dismiss the complaint and no further action will be taken
  • Take appropriate action to resolve the complaint
  • Appoint an investigator to conduct an investigation
  • Propose a resolution or mediation of the complaint
  • Refer the matter, in whole or in part, to the Discipline Committee 

What happens when a complaint is dismissed?

The following are examples of complaints that will be dismissed by the Complaints committee:

  • If there is insufficient information or no evidence of unprofessional conduct;
  • If it is deemed to be frivolous or based only on malice; and/or
  • If it is not within the jurisdiction of the Association

If a complaint is dismissed, the person making the complaint can request to have the Complaints Committee’s treatment of the complaint reviewed by the Board of Directors. A request for review must be made in writing to the Registrar within 30 days of being notified of the dismissal and explain the reasons for the request.

This is not an appeal of the Committee’s decision. Specifically, the Board considers allegations of bias or breaches of procedural fairness by the Complaints Committee and determines if the complaint should be forwarded to the Discipline Committee. The person who made the complaint will receive information about the outcome of the review by email.

When might the Complaints Committee appoint an investigator?

During a Complaints Committee meeting, the Committee, if they choose, may appoint an investigator. The complainant and the respondent will be informed. The function of the investigator is to obtain facts relevant to the complaint for the use of the Complaints Committee only. The Investigator may ask you to produce any documents or other items that may be relevant to the complaint.

Once the investigation is complete, the investigator prepares a report detailing the findings of the investigation. A copy of it is forwarded to the Complaints Committee. The Complaints Committee may decide, based on the information in the report, whether to dismiss the complaint, request additional information, or refer the matter to the Discipline Committee.

Will I be required to participate in the investigation process?

In the event that the investigator contacts you, you should have all documentation regarding the matter available. Any failure or refusal to cooperate in the investigation process, without lawful excuse, is a violation of the NBASW Act.

Who investigates complaints?

Complaints are normally investigated by registered social workers who have received special training for this task. Investigators are held accountable to the Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and legislative requirements.

What is Voluntary Resolution/Mediation?

A Voluntary Resolution/Mediation is an attempt to resolve the complaint in a manner that is mutually agreeable to all parties. This option is available when the Complaints Committee has determined that the matter should be forwarded to the Discipline Committee. The decision to participate in a voluntary resolution/mediation is a choice. There is no requirement for the person making the complaint or the social worker to participate. A voluntary resolution will not be pursued unless both parties agree.

If both parties agree, the Registrar will organize a meeting to discuss a potential resolution that is satisfactory to both parties. If the parties are unable to resolve the matter, the complaint will be forwarded to the Discipline Committee.

The Registrar will report the outcome of this meeting to the Complaints Committee. A written decision will be issued to the person making the complaint and the social worker, confirming the resolution or indicating that the matter will be forwarded to the Discipline Committee.

Should I obtain legal advice to assist me in the complaints process?

You may choose to obtain legal advice or representation during the Complaints process, whether through legal counsel selected by yourself or your professional liability insurance, but it is not a requirement of the NBASW.

Click here to access BMS, the Canadian Association of Social Worker's (CASW) professional liability insurance provider.

Discipline Committee Process

Who is part of the Discipline Committee?

The Discipline Committee is composed of five members, four of whom are members of the Association, approved by the Board of Directors and one public member appointed by the Minister of Health.

What is the mandate of the Discipline Committee?

The Discipline Committee has the mandate to conduct a hearing to determine if a member is guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence. In the event the respondent is found guilty, the Committee may impose disciplinary actions.

What happens when a complaint is referred to the Discipline Committee?

When the complaint is referred to the Discipline Committee, the Committee holds a hearing to hear evidence regarding a complaint.

The Registrar will notify the participants of the date and time of the hearing (Notice of hearing).

From the evidence, the Committee makes a judgment about whether the social worker has committed an act of professional misconduct, incompetence, and/or violated the NBASW Code of Ethics. Following the hearing, a decision may be made immediately but if this is not possible, the Committee will arrange for another meeting and come to a decision. When the decision and the reasons are prepared, the social worker and the complainant are notified in writing.

How is a hearing conducted?

The hearing is conducted in a manner similar to a judicial court. All parties may be represented by legal counsel.

Does the complainant participate if there is a hearing?

This depends on the nature of the complaint and the social worker's response to the complaint. A complainant may be subpoenaed to attend and present evidence at the hearing.

Is there an option other than a hearing?

Recognizing that hearings require significant resources, the Association has a process to simplify and or/ resolve matters without the necessity of a full hearing.

A pre-hearing conference is voluntary and is held in person or by telephone conference in the absence of the Discipline Committee. If the respondent is represented by legal counsel, the pre-conference hearing is arranged between the NBASW legal counsel and the legal counsel of the respondent. Otherwise, the pre-conference hearing will be held between the respondent and the Registrar.

The purpose of the pre-hearing conference is to:

  • Determine if any or all issues can be settled
  • Determine whether the issues can be simplified
  • Determine if there are any agreed-upon facts

What sanctions can be applied by the Discipline Committee?

Here are examples of disciplinary actions (See sections 23(4) of the NBASW Act, 1988 for a full list of sanctions):

  • Revoke the social worker's right to practise or suspend it for a specified period of time;
  • Impose terms, conditions and/or limitations on the right to practise;
  • Impose a fine; and/or
  • Publish a summary of the hearing in the official publication of the Association.

If you would like more information about the Complaint and Discipline process, please contact the Registrar.