Monday, June 29, 2015

Regulation: B.C. is the first province to require social workers pass competency test

Daphne Bramham: B.C. is first to require social workers pass competency test

It’s a step toward much-needed change

Bramham, D. (2015). Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from:

As the B.C. College of Social Workers’ registrar, John Mayr knows only too well the havoc ill-prepared and poorly trained social workers can cause for individuals, families and society.

“We’re still seeing social work graduates who are completely unprepared for practice even though there is a practicum placement of about 700 hours over two years before graduation,” he says.

“Social workers should be regulated because social workers can cause harm. Full stop. End of story.”

Starting this fall, British Columbia will be the first jurisdiction in Canada where graduates of university social work programs won’t automatically be licensed by the college.

Come September, they will need to pass a four-hour, 170-question competency exam in order to become registered social workers.

(Graduates who are already members of the college or join before September will be exempt from the testing. Since the testing was announced, the college’s membership has jumped by 400 — an increase of nearly 10 per cent.)

The college is a self-regulatory body established by provincial legislation to protect the public interest by establishing and upholding high standards of conduct.

Social work is the only one of B.C.’s 26 health professions without a competency exam.

Fewer than 10 per cent of those hired by the B.C. government to do social work are registered with the college.

One in three social workers in the province doesn’t meet the minimum requirements set out in the B.C. Social Work Act for a singular and bizarre reason: The same legislation that sets social workers’ qualifications exempts the provincial and federal governments, municipalities, school boards, Indian bands, tribal councils and First Nations organizations from having to hire people who meet those qualifications.

The result is that the people making life-altering decisions lack the specialized knowledge and training to assess and identify crisis situations and diagnose the best remedy to keep children safe.

And, as too many reports by B.C.’s representative of children and youth point out, those bad decisions can have fatal consequences.

The most recent was Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s 75-page litany of neglect and abuse suffered by a 19-year-old girl named Paige.

“Social workers, doctors, police. They all fell down,” Mayr says, referring to the report. “But the important piece is we have to do something.”

While registered social workers overwhelming support the testing, Mayr says it has pitted the college against the B.C. government and faculties of the province’s 10 schools of social work.

The testing won’t change the fact that unless the government amends the Social Work Act removing all of the exemptions and requiring that all people doing social work at least meet the minimum qualifications. The government has committed to removing the exemptions, but has yet to do so.

As for the social work faculties, Mayr says, educational institutions have opposed the testing. It may be because of the experience in the U.S., where the failure rate among graduates on similar licensing tests is about 20 per cent.

“They (social work faculties) told us that it’s not up to them to prepare them to practice (social work), they’re only there to provide them with an education,” says Mayr. “It’s a bit of a different education system (in the U.S.). So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the failure rate here is less here.

“But my heart will go out to students who fail because the universities will wash their hands of them and it will take a couple of years to drive home the message to them that they have a responsibility to their students.”

The B.C. college approached its counterparts across Canada to try to enlist them to all introduce competency testing at the same time. But they all declined and are waiting to see how it works out in British Columbia.

There’s a reason for their caution — potentially conflicting interests.

Because while colleges are charged with protecting the public, social workers are often also members of unions and other professional organizations like the B.C. Association of Social Workers, whose mandate is to support members, strengthen the profession and advocate for social justice.

While it would be nice to think that an overriding goal of all professional organizations is upholding the highest possible standards, one need only look to what happened with the B.C. College of Teachers to see how complicated it can become.

That college was disbanded in 2011 after being deemed “dysfunctional” due to ongoing conflicts with the B.C. Teachers Federation.

It doesn’t have to happen. And for the sake of British Columbians who depend on social workers’ help at a time of gravest need, one has to hope that this step toward higher standards is embraced by all.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Employment: Child Protection Worker

BC Public Service

Ministry of Children and Family Development
Multiple Positions Available

Social Program Officer - Child Protection Worker (Growth)
Salary $50,371 - $66,652 annually

As a Child Protection Worker, through assessment and collaboration, you develop plans with families to ensure the safety of children and youth. Your skill set will include interviewing clients, evaluating vulnerability factors, investigating child welfare reports and determining a plan of action for your clients including family support services.

Working for the BC Public Service includes engaging in rewarding work with real career development opportunities and receiving a benefits package that helps support you in finding work/life balance. For more information, please visit the Social Work career page.

To learn more about this opportunity and to apply online by July 19, 2015, please visit:

Attention: only applications submitted through the BC Public Service’s employment website (see link above) will be accepted.