Professional Suitability Policy

This Policy on Professional Suitability is aimed at meeting the new SB/M 2.4.4 and 2.4.5 standards of the Standards for Accreditation (2014:9) of the Board of Accreditation of the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) http://caswe-acfts.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/CASWE-ACFTS-Standards-11-2014.pdf

The Association is responsible for the accreditation of our Honours Bachelor's Degree in Social Work (2011) and the Master's Degree in Social Work (1996, 2003, 2010). The standards for a policy on professional suitability read as follows:

SB/M       2.4.4    The academic unit has a policy requiring that the performance of professional responsibilities of social work students be in accordance with the relevant social work codes of ethics.

SB/M       2.4.5    The academic unit has a policy regarding the professional suitability of student for the profession of social work. Students are made aware that serious or repeated violations of the Code of Ethics put them at risk of exclusion from the program on the basis of professional unsuitability.

Terms:
Professional Suitability:

  • Respect for the Inherent Dignity and Worth of People
  • Pursuit of Social Justice
  • Service to Humanity
  • Integrity in Professional Practice
  • Confidentiality in Professional Practice
  • Competence in Professional Practice

(Canadian Association of Social Workers, 2005)


1. Scope

This Policy applies to all students registered in the Honours B.A. in Social Work, the Master's Degree in Social Work and the Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Social Work, upon their accepting the offer of admission.

It may happen that a student experiences difficulties during the course of her or his studies in the School of Social Work. If this occurs, the School is committed to offering specific support by means of various interventions based on the identified needs. 

1.1   It is understood that students enrolled in the programs of the School of Social Work must comply with the codes and policies of the following organizations:

  1. From the Canadian Association of Social Workers
    1. Code of ethics (2005)
       
    2. Guidelines for Ethical Practice (2005)
       
  2. From the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
    1. Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (2008)
       

1.2   Grounds for the establishment of a Professional Suitability Review Committee

  1. The student showed behaviour contrary to the Code of Ethics and/or the Guidelines for Ethical Practice of the Canadian Association of Social Workers or the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers;
  2. The student was found guilty under the Criminal Code of an infraction indicating a lack of professional suitability;
  3. The student was found guilty of behaviour that would lead to her or him being registered as an aggressor in the Provincial Child Abuse Registry;
  4. One or more beneficiaries of the services of the organizations, one or more students, one or more colleagues, one or more professors or members of the public have alleged that the student behaved in a manner that showed a breach of professional suitability;
  5. Teaching staff conducting sessions and/or field placement and education coordinators and/or session supervisors allege that the student has shown evidence of incompetency;

    Incompetency[1] refers to a person "who, in the practice of her or his duties, has shown a lack of knowledge, competence or judgement, or else has shown indifference to the well-being of one or more persons and this of a nature or to a degree indicating that the member is clearly incapable of carrying out her or his professional responsibilities";
    http://ocswssw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/definition-of-terms-fr.pdf
  6. Non-disclosure of criminal infraction (s), criminal conviction (s), or allegations of professional misconduct under the Code of Ethics of the colleges, any of which could reasonably indicate professional misconduct.

2.  Professional Suitability Review Committee (PSRC)

2.1   The Faculty of Social Sciences assigns responsibility for a review of allegations to a Professional Suitability Review Committee (PSRC), henceforth referred to as the "Review Committee" in this policy. The Committee will be set up to hear any matter related to the grounds justifying a review as mentioned in Section 1 and to make a recommendation that will be forwarded to the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

2.2   The composition of the PSRC will be as follows:

  1. Chair:
    The Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences will appoint a member, either within her or his own faculty or from another faculty.
  2. Committee members:
    1. The Director of the School of Social Work (ex officio);
    2. A field placement and education coordinator from the School of Social Work appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences;
    3. A professor from another department in the Faculty of Social Sciences appointed by the Dean;
    4. An active social worker, preferably a member of a professional college, who will be appointed by the Dean on the recommendation of the School of Social Work.

2.3   The Review Committee will be established when it is deemed necessary to do so.

2.4   Quorum for the Review Committee will consist of four (4) members.

2.5   The Chair has the right to vote in case of a tie.

2.6   A member of the School of Social Work will not be disqualified from sitting as a member of the Review Committee for the sole reason that she or he had previous contacts with the student.

3.  Procedure

3.1   Allegations related to circumstances or behaviour described in Section 1.2 will be forwarded in writing to the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and be signed by the person reporting the behaviour or the violation in question. The Dean will review the allegations and determine if the establishment of a Review Committee is warranted.

3.2   The Dean will form the Review Committee and appoint a chair for the Committee. Within five (5) working days, the Dean will identify (in a written report) any issue that, in her or his opinion, relates to the circumstances described in Section 1.2 of this Policy.

3.2.1 This document must specify the name of the person submitting the allegation, the name of the student, the alleged facts, and the reason or reasons that justify the forming of the Review Committee pursuant to Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of this Policy.

3.3   Under special circumstances, the Director of the School of Social Work may take immediate measures, including temporarily removing the student from academic activities when there is a major threat to the safety of the person or to the safety of the other people with whom she or he interacts.

3.4   Upon receiving the report of the Dean, the Chair of the Review Committee will forward a notice of hearing to the student within five (5) working days, as specified in Section 4.

3.5   Role of the Committee

The Committee will:

  1. determine, during the hearing, if there are reasons justifying a sanction pursuant to Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of this Policy;
  2. make a recommendation pursuant to Section 6 of this Policy;
  3. ensure that the matter is handled with diligence.

3.6   Once the case is sent to the Review Committee, the procedure will be initiated, even if the student has withdrawn from her or his program voluntarily or refused to take part in the procedure.

4.  Notifying Student of the Hearing

4.1   Within five (5) working days following receipt of a request for a review, the Chair of the Review Committee will:

  1. send the student a copy of the Dean's report to the Chair of the Review Committee;
  2. inform the student in writing of the allegation that could lead to a sanction;
  3. inform the student in writing of the composition of the Review Committee;
  4. send the student a copy of the Policy on Professional Suitability of the University of Ottawa's School of Social Work;
  5. inform the student in writing of the date, time and location of the hearing;
  6. offer the student at least ten (10) working days’ notice of the hearing
  7. inform the student of her or his right to react to the allegation in writing, and outline grounds whereby the allegation might be refuted, as well as the desired solution.

4.2   The notice shall be sent by e-mail to the student's electronic address @uottawa.ca with a request for an acknowledgment of receipt.

4.3   The notice from the Chair to the student must mention that if the allegations are confirmed to the satisfaction of the Review Committee, she or he will be informed of the possible consequences.

4.4   The student has the right, at the latest five (5) working days before the hearing, to inform the Chair of the Review Committee of her or his concerns regarding any member of said Committee who, in his or her view, may be in a conflict of interest or who, in any way, could be biased when hearing the case. If the Chair is informed of such concerns, she or he must inform any member identified by the student and do so prior to the hearing. The Committee member has the right to respond to the concerns in writing or recuse her/himself from the case if she or he considers that the concerns are justified.  If need be, the Chair will determine if a change in the composition of the Committee is justified.

4.5   Any non-compliance by the Review Committee with one or more of the conditions listed in Section 4.1 will not affect the validity of the rest of the procedures. However, such non-compliance could be taken into consideration during subsequent procedures.

5.  Hearing Procedures

5.1   The student has the right to appear in person at the hearing and be accompanied by an individual of her or his choice.

5.2   Pursuant to Section 5.1, before the hearing, the student must inform the Review Committee of the identity of any individual who will accompany her or him.

5.3   The hearing is held in closed sessions and the only people allowed to attend are the members of the Review Committee, the student and the individual accompanying her or him.

5.4   The student has access to all documents submitted to the Review Committee and has the right to submit others.

5.5   The student is under no obligation to bring clarifications.  However, the members of the Committee may ask for points to be verbally clarified.

5.6   A simple majority of the four members of the Review Committee is required for any conclusion as well as for the rendering of a decision.

5.7   Pursuant to Section 2.5, the Chair of the Review Committee votes only in the case of a tie.

5.8   In accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the University of Ottawa's Policy 90 on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy, the members of the Review Committee must keep confidential all information obtained in the context of their role on the Committee, and the documents are processed pursuant to Section 8 of this Policy. The only information to be disclosed is that which is reasonably necessary for the execution of the Committee's mandate and the finalization of arrangements pursuant to any decision made.

5.9   The results of the hearing, the grounds for determining professional unsuitability, and the recommendations of the Review Committee regarding sanctions will be submitted in a written report by the Chair of the Review Committee to the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Within five (5) working days following receipt of the report of the Committee, the Dean will inform the student by e-mail at @uottawa.ca of the decision on the matter and cite the reasons given.

Furthermore, the Dean will provide the information to all members of the School who are involved in the matter.

The Dean may also provide relevant information to people who need the information in the performance of their duties, pursuant to the provisions of the University of Ottawa's Administrative Regulation 14a on student records, Section 16[2], as well as Section 18[3].

6.  Settlement of the Case

6.1   After having considered all the information and the clarifying elements, the members of the Review Committee will meet behind closed doors to examine their conclusions and decide upon a recommendation on the issue under study.

6.2   The Review Committee may determine that the student has not contravened this Policy on Professional Suitability and dismiss the allegation or make any other recommendation it deems appropriate.

6.3   The Review Committee may determine that the student has contravened this   Policy on Professional Suitability and, according to the conclusions, make one of the following recommendations to the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

  1. The Review Committee may recommend that no measures be taken on the case and that the student be authorized to continue her or his program at the School of Social Work.

    Otherwise, the Committee may recommend the following sanctions:
  2. Written reprimand;
  3. Supervisory measures for the student's studies at the School of Social Work;
  4. Suspension of her or his program for a specified period with or without measures to rectify deficiencies;
  5. Withdrawal from her or his program.

The sanctions provided for in Sections 6.3(d) and (e), on the recommendation of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Appeals Committee of the University of Ottawa.

6.4   Pursuant to Sections 6.3(c) and (d), the Review Committee will recommend that the Dean direct that one or more members of the Review Committee monitor compliance with the specified conditions. Once the conditions have been met or the deadline has expired, a Review Committee shall be convened to examine the student's compliance with the conditions. In case of non-compliance, the Review Committee will determine the next steps to be taken.

7.  Appeals

7.1   The student may appeal to the Senate Appeals Committee of the University of Ottawa the decision of the Dean pursuant to Sections 6.3 (b) and (c) or the recommendation to that Committee pursuant to Sections 6.3 (d) and (e). 

7.2   In case of such an appeal, the procedure to be followed is that of the Senate's Appeals Committee.

8.  Files and Destruction of the Documents

8.1   In accordance with the provisions of the University of Ottawa's Policy 90 on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy, a file on any determination of professional unsuitability and the measures taken in this regard will be kept in the student's academic record in the Office of the Registrar. Any other document related to the hearing will be kept in strict confidence in the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences according to the procedures set down for this purpose. If no allegation is retained to the effect that the student violated this Policy on Professional Suitability, the file and any other document related to the hearing will be destroyed.

9.  Changes

9.1   This Policy can be changed only by the Senate of the University of Ottawa following approval of such by the appropriate authorities, including the School of Social Work.

Approved by the Senate of University of Ottawa on November 28, 2016.


[1],        The definition of incompetency is taken from the definitions of the OCSWSSW since those professional standards are required for any person who makes a request to the College based on the accreditation of our School

[2]    Staff Access

16. Staff members, authorized representatives and consultants of the University are given access to information in the student record if they need the information to perform their duties or if such access is necessary and appropriate in the discharge of the University’s functions.

[3]    Legally mandated access

18. The University may disclose the student record or portions of it to persons or agencies where required by applicable access-to-information and protection-of-privacy laws, by other applicable legislation, or by a court college, summons or subpoena directing the University to release information. The University may also release information to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities or to other government bodies for funding purposes, for statistical analyses, for enrollment audits or in accordance with the requirements of duly constituted professional licensing and certification bodies.

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