By Birnbaum, Rachel; Silver, Richard | Canadian Social Work Review, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview


Birnbaum, Rachel, Silver, Richard, Canadian Social Work Review

The Time Has Come

FOR OVER A DECADE there has been vigorous debate within some sectors of the social work profession regarding the relevance of self regulation of the profession; the potential for deprofessionalization of social work and more recently the pros and cons of identifying the entry level competencies required for safe, effective and ethical practice of social work (Campbell, 2002; CASSW, 2004; CCSWR, 2010; Dominelli, 1996; 2005; Healy 8c Meagher, 2004). Unfortunately some of the debate has been fuelled by misunderstanding and misinformation. The purpose of this discussion is to present the relevancy of competency based social work practice in the Canadian context.

With the goal of public protection, the social work profession is already regulated in all 1 0 Canadian provinces and in the Northwest Territories. While the legislative and regulatory framework varies from province to province, the provincial regulatory bodies regulate approximately 35,000 social workers, who perform the professional activities or use the professional titles reserved by legislation.

As social workers provide services to high risk and vulnerable clients, the public needs to know what social workers are able to do and the extent of their legal and ethical responsibilities. Provincial regulatory boards protect the public through the publication of practice guides and standards, me provision of professional continuing education, the control of incompetent or unethical social workers and a governance model that includes public representation. However the social work profession in Canada has not yet fully addressed what constitutes its fundamental knowledge, values and skills:

For too long, the profession has been unable or unwilling to formulate a cohesive and unified description that would permit the public and our colleagues in other helping professions to clearly recognize the knowledge, values and skills declared by the profession. Studies are available that show that the public as well as members in our own profession are confused when they attempt to explain what a social worker does. (Beals, 2003, p.l)

The Development of Professional Competency Profiles in Canada

Under the umbrella of their national body, an increasing number of professions in Canada have developed professional competency profiles in recent years. The most recent edition of the physician competency framework developed by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, designed to be of use to educators, clinical teachers, trainees, practicing physicians, researchers, other health professionals, public officials and patients, focuses on articulating a comprehensive definition of the competencies needed for medial education and practice (Frank, 2005).

The Canadian Competencies for Midwives "provide a base for the development of national assessment processes" and "provide information to internationally-educated midwives about what Canadian midwives are expected to know and do" (Canadian Midwifery Regulators Consortium, 2005, 2010).

While the first edition of Essential Competencies of Practice for Occupational Therapists in Canada (2000) was designed to facilitate the development of continuing competence programs, regulators can use the third edition for activities such as guiding and supporting occupational therapists, developing quality assurance and continuing competence programs, and developing and monitoring guidelines for registration and standards of practice (Association of Canadian Occupational Regulatory Organizations, 2011).

The Essential Competency Profile for Physiotherapists in Canada (2009) describes the "essential competencies (i.e., the knowledge, skills, and attitudes) required by physiotherapists in Canada at the beginning of and throughout their career. It also provides guidance for physiotherapists to build on their competencies over time."

While the competencies identified in profiles such as diese are not exhaustive, they are designed to provide an inventory of competencies that are considered central, core or essential to the effective practice of the professional. …

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