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Concerns over holes in system dealing with BC's most vulnerable

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There’s concern people dealing with the most vulnerable kids in our province don’t actually need any training to be a social worker in BC and the children’s watchdog calls that harmful.

“Many of these cases we see, part of the answer to these cases is that proper regulation and discipline in this profession is needed and it’s long overdue,” says Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

She says all organizations, whether public or private, needs to set the standard. “The Ministry of Children and Families in particular needs to set the tone here and require, as has the health sector, that people who call themselves social workers are licensed and registered social workers.”

Turpel-Lafond says this is very prevalent with services the Ministry of Children and Families has contracted out.

“The ministry frequently gives them an exception that they don’t have to have social work credentials. So they can hire a percentage of their staff from any background which might even mean that they don’t have a high school education.”

The BC College of Social Workers echoes her concerns and says the type of care people are receiving can be hindered.

“They may be thinking they’re receiving services from a person that they think is a social worker who in fact is not a social worker and doesn’t have any social work knowledge or education,” explains John Mayr with the College. “If somebody wants to call themselves a nurse or an occupational therapist, or a physical therapist, they must be registered with their college. Social work is one of the very few professions where the extent of exemptions runs as deep as it does.”

Turpel-Lafond says registration holds people accountable and enables clients to have an outlet to complain.

Mayr gives an example of a recent case out of Lytton where a man convicted of sexual assault calls himself a social worker and works with youth but has no education in the field.