Social workers fear new rules not enough

Some veteran social workers are worried proposed new rules regulating their profession don't go far enough.

Some veteran social workers are worried proposed new rules regulating their profession don't go far enough.

The province is poised to pass legislation governing social workers in Manitoba, the last province in Canada to do so.

The Social Work Profession Act, or Bill 9, was introduced in the Manitoba legislature last December.

The regulations will include documented standards of practice and a code of ethics.

But a spokeswoman for a group of five seasoned social workers trying to amend the legislation told CBC News the rules aren't stringent enough — especially when it comes to how much education a social worker must have to qualify to practise.

"I've found it in general practice that people who don't have appropriate education or people who are calling themselves social workers in general practice at times have done things that have been harmful for clients," Sherrill Hershberg said.

Hershberg has been a social worker for 38 years.

"The [education] standards are not high enough, in fact, they're almost non-existent," she said.

"We have faced many situations in the past where unfortunately, lack of education [and] lack of practice standards have impacted on the public," Hershberg said.

The group believes people wanting to call themselves a social worker should be required to hold, at minimum, an undergraduate university degree in social work from an accredited post-secondary school.

Provincial officials said they want to make sure people who have experience and expertise in social work won't be left out because they don't have a piece of paper. However, the province has said it is open to changes to the legislation.

Hershberg added that the lack of mandatory aboriginal representation and of delegates from the University of Manitoba — the only postsecondary institution in the province to offer a social work degree — on a newly formed oversight board is also troubling.

However, the province said nothing is preventing the board from appointing an aboriginal member once it sets its own bylaws.

The province hopes to have the bill passed before the end of the year.