Alberta College of Social Workers

Continuing Competence

Under the Health Professions Act, all regulated health professions must provide a continuing competence program for their members.
Yes, you are required to submit Professional Development Credits Form (PDCF) each year with your renewal package. You are also required to complete your Learning Plan and Self-Assessment and retain them along with your category A supporting documentation, to be sent to the ACSW when requested.

Submit your documentation with an explanation for why you did not complete your credits and complete the first three columns of a Learning Plan for the next year detailing how you will make up the credits.

The Competence Committee and the ACSW strives to be understanding during difficult times for our members. As such, when a Social worker experiences a natural disaster (house fire, flood etc.) the ACSW will review the case individually and work with the social worker to develop a plan for his/her portfolio. If you have experienced a disaster, please contact the ACSW to discuss your options before your portfolio is due. Please contact Kelly Brisebois, Competence Program Coordinator.

In the initial focus group discussions, where members indicated the broad range of activities they participate in as part of their professional development, most people said they are doing around 150 to 200 hours per year of these types of activities. This led to the question, “How do I know if I am meeting an appropriate minimum professional standard?” The Practice Review Board (now Competence Committee) looked at other models similar to the one developed here and found that programs based on this type of approach typically ask for 40 or more credits per year.
Typically, these would be the kind of workshops, conferences or courses for which you receive a document upon completion indicating it counts for X units of credit. Before registering for a program you should check with the provider to see if their program has been assessed for continuing education credits. The ACSW does not have either the capability or the intent to approve programs on an individual basis. There are many organizations that accredit continuing education programs, and we will recognize those approved for social work or related disciplines by an independent assessor (for example, another professional regulatory board, an academic institution, etc.). Organizations that provide continuing education for social workers are encouraged to apply for Approved Continuing Education status with the Association of Social Work Boards.
The ACSW is a member of the Association of Social Work Boards and the approval mechanism they provide is a member benefit. This is ‘our’ program. An approval process for continuing education activities is not simply a matter of looking at a brochure and deciding whether or not the content is relevant. If it was this simple, it would not be long before programs are developed that have very poor standards but are able to survive (and make money) by keeping their costs below that of high quality programs. An approval mechanism needs first to establish a set of standards for content, process, and presenter. Then all the people providing programs would need to be approved. Given the hundreds of programs offered each year that are relevant to the broad range of social work practice, it is cost and time prohibitive to develop an in-house mechanism.
Several employers have become accredited continuing education providers. A list can be found on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website. Accredited providers can offer category A credits, all other training should be listed under category B.
Yes, as long as the activities you are mentoring or supervising fit within the scope of social work practice. Supervision of social work students, provisional social workers, or clinical supervision of people applying to be on the clinical registry can be counted as category A activities. Other type of supervision or supervision of students in other fields is counted as category B.
Yes. There is nothing that requires your professional development be related to your paid social work employment or specific social work skills. If you wish to focus your learning on related activities you may do so.
There is no requirement that training takes place in Alberta or be approved by an Alberta organization.

No, it's impossible to keep an accurate up to date list of all of the continuing education providers. Social work has a wide scope of practice which results in RSWs taking training from other disciplines all over the world. The Association of Social Work Boards provides accreditation to continuing education providers and maintains a database of approved providers.

If the information is not noted, contact the provider whose information is posted there as well. ACSW is not responsible for the information on the site so cannot answer questions about programs delivered by other organizations.

Any social worker in Alberta can log on and post an event. It does not show up immediately because they come to the office first to confirm suitability, but are generally on the site within a day or two. Any type of event that would be of interest to social workers can be posted. If you know of an organization providing educational opportunities for social workers please let them know about the site as well. If they do not have a social worker on staff with access to the member services, they can call the ACSW office to get an access code.
There is no charge to post events on the site.
Each case will be evaluated on an individual basis by the Competence Committee. The field of practice, length of practice, length of absence, and activities while absent from practice would all be considered in making a decision.
A social worker who is absent from practice for five or more years may be required to take a return to practice exam and to work under the supervision of a registered social worker for a period of time to be determined by the Competence Committee. Individual circumstances will be taken into consideration.
The ACSW will be checking to see that members have completed the form and met the basic requirements for professional development activities and practice hours. Information from these forms will be added to the member database. They will be forwarded to the Competence Committee for review if there appears to be a problem.
ACSW staff will be compiling material for the Competence Committee to review. No one else has access. By law, the information gathered for the Continuing Competence Program may only be used within the program.
There are three circumstances under which a referral must be made to discipline: 1. if the Competence Committee or registrar believes that a member has provided false or misleading information; 2. if a practice visit results in the opinion that a member displays a lack of competence, the member may be incapacitated, or the conduct of the member constitutes unprofessional conduct that cannot be remedied through the continuing competence program. 3. If the member has not complied with the Competence program requirements.
The Competence Committee is authorized under the HPA to observe some members directly in practice. Watch for more information on this process in the future.
Your registration will be cancelled and your employer notified. Under the Health Professions Act, it is illegal to practice social work in Alberta without a practice permit.

The competence program has now been in place for a number of years and during this time the majority of social workers in Alberta have demonstrated that they are meeting or exceeding the program requirements each year. Therefore, rather than requiring all social workers to submit a full portfolio every five years, social workers will now be randomly selected to submit a portfolio with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 years of information, or just the Professional Development Credit Form. All social workers are still required to complete the full portfolio, including a self-assessment and learning plan for each year, which may be requested at a future date if any concerns arise. You will receive a letter approximately five months prior to your renewal in the relevant year detailing exactly what you need to submit.

If your practice permit expires on:

  • December 31st - your portfolio is due August 31, 2011, 2016, 2021, etc.
  • March 31st - your portfolio is due November 30, 2012, 2017, 2022, etc.
  • June 30th – your portfolio is due February 28, 2014, 2019, 2024, etc.
  • September 30th - your portfolio is due May 31, 2015, 2020, 2025, etc.
We are not assessing your competence. We are assessing your compliance with the program and the process followed. 30% of the membership will be randomly selected to send portfolios Most of these will be assessed based on completeness and credit requirements being met. Detailed reviews are completed by the Competence Committee on 5 to 10% of the submissions (selected at random).
Up to 20 of your credits in Category A activities may be carried over to the next year. Carry-over is automatically calculated and will be applied to the proceeding year's credit requirements. All credits must be used in the next year - they cannot be used for multiple years. There is no carry-over in categories B and C.

Some people have found that simply having a file folder with everything together is easiest. Others find it helpful to maintain a binder with different sections. An electronic filing system may work for some as well. Consider the uses you might have for the material, such as updating your resume, preparing for your annual review, etc. and think about what method of organization will be most helpful to your own needs.

If you find it easier to submit a portfolio every year, you may do so, but as e-mail attachments only . Online submission of competency documents is being developed. The Professional Development Credits Form (PDCF) is currently available. Other documents will become available shortly.

 
Category A
Category B
Category C
Total
Full-time RSW
Minimum 10
Maximum 30
Maximum 10
40
Part-time RSW (less than 1000 hr/yr)
Minimum 5
Maximum 25
Maximum 25
30
Inactive RSW
Maximum 20
Maximum 20
Maximum 20
20
Clinical social worker
Minimum 20
Minimum 10
Minimum 10
50
Clinical social worker part-time
Minimum 10
Minimum 5
Minimum 20
35
Clinical social worker inactive
Maximum 20
Maximum 20
Maximum 20
20
Social workers in part-time practice (defined for these purposes as 1000 or fewer hours of work annually) must complete 30 professional development credits annually. Five of these credits (10 in a two-year period) must come from category A. The other 25 credits may be from any combination of activities in categories A, B and C. Maximum credits per activity apply to all social workers.
Yes, if you are a registered social worker you must complete your competency requirements. If you are in an accredited education program that relates to your learning plan, taking a minimum of two courses per year will fulfill your competence requirements.
The response to this question depends on a number of factors. If a member is retired and no longer plans to practice, no the requirements do not need to be followed. A member who is taking an extended leave to pursue other interests but who eventually plans to return to social work has two options. One is to complete the program requirements for inactive members. This requires at least 20 credits be completed annually, but does not require any category A activities. The member must still complete the Self-Assessment and Learning Plan to show how they are maintaining their competence in social work. The other is to cancel their registration until such time as they plan to return to practice, and deal with any competence requirements that may be necessary for re-entry to practice. For those who do not have 300 practice hours in 5 years passing an entry-to-practice exam is required.
There is nothing that requires that member’s learning activities be restricted to social work. For example, if you are a supervisor and take a course in personnel management, that counts. Educators may be learning how to use computer assisted learning or other tools. The learning should be based on what matters to the individual, not to meet the bureaucratic needs of ACSW.
No, you are able to count unaccredited activities as category A credits if they fit in your Learning Plan and are at least three hours in length. You can simply fill out a Category A Summary form to have the activity considered for category A credits. Approval of these credits is at the Competence Committee's discretion.
We are very interested in receiving feedback from members on their experience with the program. If you have comments we would appreciate receiving them in writing. You can send comments to Kelly Brisebois, Competence Program Coordinator (kellyb@acsw.ab.ca).

Category A credits must be accredited. Accreditation in terms of continuing education means that the provider has been through a quality check process with a professional continuing education organization. ACSW is not able to provide accreditation in house, but the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides this service. Please see their webpage (www.aswb.org) under the ACE (Accredited Continuing Education) program for more information on becoming an accredited provider.

We recommend the ASWB, but there are many other reputable professional continuing education organizations. For a list of some of these organizations, please see Information for Providers. We also accept credits that have been approved from any of the health profession colleges and universities/colleges.

No. Only those RSWs who refuse to complete and send in the required documents will be subject to suspension or cancellation, and only after several written notices have been sent. Members who are trying to meet the requirements will not be penalized for incomplete, late, or insufficient information. Send in what you have. If something is not clear we may call you for an explanation, and in some cases information is entered differently than the way it is submitted (for example changing categories). We continue to learn from the member submissions and it is likely that there will be additional changes in the program over the next few years.

Your competency requirements remain the same while inactive. The only exception is that the credit requirement is reduced to 20 credits per year. While away, there is no mandatory category A requirement, the credits can be completed in whichever category or combination of that best meets your learning goals.

Both self-assessments and learning plans are still required to be completed for this period as part of your return to work plan. The ACSW forms may be difficult to complete when inactive. The narrative formats of the self-assessment and learning plan are recommended in this situation. Information is available on the ACSW website.