Canadian provinces use mobility provisions in pandemic response

Date: July 8, 2020

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a shared experience across the planet, it has also resulted in particular challenges and specific solutions. ASWB recently examined how the social work regulatory colleges in two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Ontario, continued to serve the public in troubled times. Some of the mobility solutions available in these provinces helped to meet the needs of social workers and their clients.

Mark Hillenbrand, registrar and CEO of the British Columbia College of Social Workers, says his province’s temporary registration provision helped provide continuity of care. “We’ve had university students from all over Canada come home,” Hillenbrand says. But because British Columbia has temporary registration available to social workers at no cost, registered social workers from outside the province may practice in British Columbia for 90 days, a period that can be extended to six months. Social workers providing services to university students benefited from this mobility provision because it let them meet electronically with clients without significant obstacles to practice across provincial borders.

Some of the solutions available to the British Columbia college were not possible in Ontario. “Our legislation doesn’t provide for emergency or temporary registration,” says Lise Betteridge, who serves as registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. But a provision allowing electronic practice that was approved by the council (board) in summer 2019 allows practice by “those social workers in good standing in other Canadian provinces who wish to practise electronically in Ontario exclusively by electronic means,” Betteridge says.

Indeed, Betteridge said one of the most surprising aspects of the response of the social work community to the emergency was social workers’ swift transition to electronic practice. “With the emergency closure regulation in place, those of our members who weren’t considered ‘essential’ were not permitted to provide services in person,” Betteridge said. “It is striking how quickly the situation unfolded and how quickly members made this shift in their practice.”

Read more about how regulators in these two Canadian provinces responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in Two Canadian provinces reflect on pandemic challenges and solutions.