Manitoba social work staff escape scrutiny thanks to loophole, says college
Manitoba College of Social Workers says loophole allows social work staff to escape scrutiny
Manitoba's new college of social workers says its authority is being undermined by a loophole that allows hundreds of workers to escape accountability rules.
All social workers in the province are required as of April 1 to register with the new Manitoba College of Social Workers, which was previously known as the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers, a voluntary regulatory body.
I am appalled that they've done this. It's a reversal of the intent of the college.- Diane Cullen
Manitoba becomes the last province in Canada to set up a mandatory registry for social workers.
But the college says it has learned that a number of social work employees are being told they do not have to register.
"We've heard that some social workers may indeed not be required to register by their employers, specifically the Government of Manitoba and perhaps some agencies that are associated with the government," Miriam Browne, the college's executive director and registrar, said Monday.
Diane Cullen, also who works with the college, says in late March the government said social work employees have to register with the college only if the specific term "social worker" is in their job titles.
That means hundreds of professionals who work with vulnerable children will escape the college's scrutiny, she said.
"The people who are looking after the most vulnerable of our population — the little children — are not accountable. As long as they call themselves an intake worker or a child protection worker, they do not have to be regulated," Cullen said.
Browne said the idea behind mandatory registration is to protect the people who are being helped by social workers.
"Primarily, the reason to have a college of social workers is to improve the protection of the public interest, so that all members of the public who have contact with and work with social workers are assured of competent and ethical practice," Browne said.
"So if the new college is not able to regulate the full spectrum of people in social work, then of course, we won't be able to protect the public … nor will we be able to help our members to ensure that they are doing the most competent, ethical social work."
Cullen said almost 450 provincial government employees have already pulled their applications because of what she calls watered-down legislation.
"I am appalled. I voted NDP all my life. I was a friend of Greg Selinger. I would never vote for them again," Cullen said.
"I am appalled that they've done this. It's a reversal of the intent of the college."
Law protects title, says province
A provincial government spokesperson told CBC News the new legislation aims to protect the title of "social worker."
The province does not want child-welfare employees who are not qualified social workers to face mandatory registration, the spokesperson said.
The province says rules for registering in Manitoba are consistent with rules in Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Northwest Territories.
The government's next steps will include reviewing workers' duties and determining with union officials whether more positions should be designated as "social worker" positions, the spokesperson said.