Alberta College of Social Workers

Information for Social Workers

Many social workers have been on and near the front line of the pandemic response. Some social workers had significant change or loss. We see you, we support you, and we thank you for doing your part while making your profession proud.

The regulation of the social work profession is empowered by the Health Professions Act. Social workers are trusted professionals that contribute to the health and welfare of Alberta's most vulnerable communities, families, and individuals. We thank each of you for doing your part to demonstrate leadership in ensuring that social workers can safely practice. It is imperative that social workers follow public health orders and guidance when practicing in person to protect clients and staff. Our clients need to feel safe and stay healthy. We need to be safe and stay healthy.

COVID-19 and the Alberta response is an ever-evolving situation, we encourage you to continue to remain up to date with the developments.

Effective December 13, 2020 public health orders outline that working from home is mandatory when physical presence is not required for operational effectiveness. Regulated health services can continue. Appointments with appropriate screening is recommended over walk-ins when and where appropriate. Practice does not need to be limited to one-on-one services as long as public health orders, general guidance for all workplaces and sector guidance is followed.

The Government is directing that wellness services cease under heightened orders, but not safe and competent regulated health services. Social workers are encouraged to increase precautions to protect clients and each other during this time. Please continue to reduce in-person contact as much as practical as it is the best way to reduce risk of spread of COVID-19. Virtual and remote service provision can be very effective for many areas of practice and many clients.

ACSW Office 

While the ACSW office doors remain closed to visitors and members of the public until future notice, ACSW is still operating 8:30am - 4:30pm Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). Please contact by telephone at 780-421-1167 or email to receive support with your registration and practice needs.

President's Message 

Messages from ACSW Council President Ajay Pandhi

May 12, 2020
March 23, 2020

Staying Healthy 

We all have a role to play in keeping our families and communities healthy and safe. A reminder to utilize universal precautions:

Additional resources:

For More Information click on each menu item below

Our response to COVID-19 is evolving with time, knowledge, and resource availability. We continue to remain cautious. Social workers are encouraged to remain creative on how to connect with clients and each other during this time emphasizing caution over preferences.

Effective December 13, 2020, public health orders outline that working from home is mandatory when physical presence is not required for operational effectiveness. Regulated health services can continue. Appointments with appropriate screening is recommended over walk-ins when and where appropriate. Practice does not need to be limited to one-on-one services as long as public health orders, general guidance for all workplaces and sector guidance is followed.

The Government is directing that wellness services cease under heightened orders, but not safe and competent regulated health services. Social workers are encouraged to increase precautions to protect clients and each other during this time. Please continue to reduce in-person contact as much as practical as it is the best way to reduce risk of spread of COVID-19. Virtual and remote service provision can be very effective for many areas of practice and many clients. For more information visit virtual practice in the drop-down menu below.

Social workers practice in varied circumstances and serve diverse populations for different purposes from front-line non-profit agencies, through government administration and self-employed private practice. In all fields of social work practice, social workers are required to use professional judgement in determining the provision of safe social work services that are in-line with public health directives. It is important to be confidently grounded in reliable information. Lead and advocate as appropriate for your clients, colleagues, and yourselves.

When in-person contact is practiced:

  • Ensure the use of masks, as they are mandatory in all indoor public places and workplaces
  • Consider how to implement 2 metres physical distancing for clients and staff throughout the workplace (checking in, to and from appointment, paperwork), consider spreading out appointments and limiting use of waiting rooms (where relevant)
  • Follow all COVID-19 orders and legislation
  • Keep informed on the latest COVID-19 information
  • Follow Alberta workplace guidance for minimizing the spread of COVID-19
  • Follow directions and guidance provided by your employer and/or volunteer site and engage in appropriate staff screening protocols
  • Consider the hazard of COVID-19 in the workplace and how to minimize the risk of spread
  • Ensure staff and colleagues are aware of current COVID-19 guidelines and policies and that sick leave policies align with public health guidance
  • Consider what needs to be included in a new informed consent
  • Consider what screening should be implemented to distinguish between clients who are symptomatic, asymptomatic who are isolating or required to quarantine, asymptomatic in general population (where feasible) and
    • Consider how to defer service or provide alternative service provision for symptomatic clients (where possible) and refer to AHS online self-assessment tool and
    • Consider continuing flexibility or remote service provision for those who are isolated or quarantined (where appropriate)
  • Exercise appropriate hygiene; contact with client or client's environment, after risk of exposure to bodily fluids, after contact with the client or client's environment
  • Identify high traffic areas and high-touch surfaces that need to be subject to enhanced environmental cleaning and consider removing communal items
  • Consider how to clean and disinfect high touch surfaces with proper disinfectants that have a DIN issued by Health Canada
  • Where appropriate consider point of care risk assessment and follow Health Sector PPE guidelines as appropriate
  • Consider consulting with provider of professional liability insurance if appropriate

Reasons to continue providing services remotely and virtually

Consider the amount of time needed for hygiene, cleaning, disinfecting and orienting clients. This may impact the amount of time available to see clients.

Consider the challenge of communicating when the face or mouth is covered by mask. 

Consider those clients and presenting issues that might be the most challenging to shift to remote or virtual service provision, may also:

  • have the most difficulty following physical distancing and hygiene protocols
  • may encounter and involve more people to get to an in-person appointment and
  • may be in a higher-risk category
Reducing contact with clients and colleagues remains the best way to reduce the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19.

Professional Judgement

In assessing what is reasonable for in-person contact, professional judgement needs to be exercised considering the social worker's practice, clients, and the systems being served/navigated. Seek supervision and consultation as appropriate. This determination should be made on an individual case-by-case basis and re-considered as appropriate as risks and opportunities change. 

Professional judgement is central to providing safe and competent social work services. In uncertain times, the social worker should resort to the definition of what could be construed as reasonable . The Standards of Practice defines "reasonable" as referring to the common-law principle that behavior or conduct, which a typical or average social worker, with similar training and experience, would consider to be appropriate in given circumstances.

When exercising professional judgement, the social worker is accountable for good and adverse outcomes. It is important to review professional resources, seek supervision/consultation, and document decisions in client records as appropriate. Consider the following questions when determining if in person service provision is required: 

  • Is there an urgent need that the social worker can articulate other than client or professional preference for in-person service provision?
  • Does the social worker have the resources and time to meet or exceed public health directives in a way that would be recognized by an outside viewer?
  • Is the social worker learning how to deliver services remotely or virtually? Is the social worker encouraging clients to stay at home, when appropriate? Is the social worker teaching how to receive remote or virtual services?
  • Is the social worker following appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures? Can the social worker source and use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Risk-informed decision-making is prudent during this time. Canadian guidelines for workplaces and businesses is shared here:

Prioritization Scales

While there are numerous scales to guide judgement in determining prioritization in health and mental health practice, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs may also provide some guidance in other areas of social work practice:

  • Basic needs may be emergency or urgent (including mental health emergencies)
  • Psychological needs may be urgent or not
  • Self-fulfillment goals may not be urgent

When an RSW provides in-person services consider how they will be managed while implementing public health directions and guidance.

Additional triage tools:

PPE & Hierarchy of Controls Framework

Remote or virtual delivery of services is more effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 than the appropriate use of PPE. While using virtual services, facial expressions are not disrupted by face masks. While delivering services over the phone, the challenge of physical distance or barriers are eliminated. In some areas of practice and with some clients, in-person service delivery cannot be eliminated.

When removing or minimizing hazards at the workplace, the hierarchy of controls framework informs that all control methods play a role and are used together. Notably, the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used in addition to other greater measures, not instead of more effective controls. Virtual and remote contact can remove or minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Hierarchy of Controls Framework

  • Elimination of in person contact – what services can be eliminated? What practice can be eliminated?
  • Substitution of remote or virtual services – what can be done over the phone or online to provide services?
  • Engineer Controls when in-person is necessary – where can distance be introduced? Can barriers work where distance is not an option? Can paths where people move be differently controlled? Are all surfaces and spaces cleaned appropriately between clients?
  • Administrative controls when in-person is necessary – is signage needed to educate clients and staff? What training does staff need to reduce risk while providing in person services?
  • PPE when in-person is necessary – PPE cannot be the only protective measure used. Safe and competent use of PPE become more important when in an environment where it is difficult to eliminate, substitute, engineer or administratively address in-person contact. Use of PPE also creates an additional thing to train, educate and appropriately manage (

Additional Resources:

Registration renewal is not impacted

ACSW continues to serve our Registered Social Workers, members, employers and the public by email and phone. We continue to monitor updates to ensure appropriate measures are in place for our social workers, employers, and the public. Staff is still available to provide assistance by phone and email. 


The online renewal system is operational to complete annual renewals. Please email or call if you require assistance with online renewals. Email and indicate Renewal Assistance.

If you do not anticipate practicing social work in a paid or volunteer capacity for a prolonged period (6+ months) you may want to consider converting your membership to inactive. Please log into your profile, select View/Edit Profile, Additional tab, and Membership Conversion to submit a request.

If current circumstances suggest that you need financial support to pay your annual dues you may want to request a payment plan. These requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Please email and indicate Payment Plan Request.

Courtesy Registration

If you are being asked to provide social work services in other Provinces or States, either in person or remotely, don’t forget to contact the Social Work Board or College in that jurisdiction. 

Registered or Licensed social workers being asked to provide social work services, either in person or remotely, in Alberta will have access to our Courtesy Registry. Please email and indicate Courtesy Registry.

RSWs (and applicants) who are required to take an exam as part of their registration or inclusion on the Clinical Registry are encouraged to check available testing dates. Significant backlogs may limit your choices. There are three organizations to consult and consider when addressing this requirement. Be sure to check the included links for the most up-to-date information.

  1. Pearson Vue Testing Centres – Responsible for exam scheduling and administration

Test delivery is changing rapidly. Consult the website for the latest impact on exams.

  1. Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) – Responsible for exam registration and accommodations

ASWB continues to adjust their operations. They will waive registration change fees ($30 USD) to apply extensions to candidate registration expiration dates affected by developments related to COVID-19. Please see their website for more up-to-date details, or email your questions to

  1. Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) – responsible for exam approvals and deadlines

We commit to working with those whose exam was impacted by extending approvals as appropriate. You can verify your approval timeframe in your profile under: view/edit profile, additional tab, ASWB Exam. Check the date on your profile before contacting ASWB. Please note that leaving exam requirements to the last minute may ultimately impact registration status. Additional questions can go to and indicate Exam Question. Those who are completing the clinical exam as for admission to the Clinical Registry please email and indicate Clinical Exam Question.

Congratulations New Grads!

We celebrate the new graduates of social work programs! Let us welcome you to the profession and remind you to pause and celebrate your accomplishment during these stressful and uncertain times. Please see this quick guide to registration:

First Time Registrants

Social work is a profession that is regulated in Alberta under the Health Professions Act (HPA). In Alberta, registration is mandatory for persons with a recognized social work credential, practicing within the scope of social work. Hence graduates of a social work program, must register prior to working within the scope. Only registered social workers can identify as a social worker.

The definition of the scope of practice in the HPA:

In their practice, social workers do one or more of the following:

(a) enhance or restore the social functioning of individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities by improving developmental, problem-solving and coping capacities of people and systems,
(b) promote effective and humane systems that provide resources, opportunities and services to people and link people to those systems,
(c) contribute to the development and improvement of social policy, and
           (c.1) teach, manage and conduct research in the science, techniques and practice of social work, and
(d) provide restricted activities authorized by regulations


  • Click “Apply Now” on the home page, the survey will direct you to the right application. Fill out the application and pay the $80 application fee. You will be directed to upload additional documentation:
    • Current Resume/CV detailing social work experience
    • Current Criminal Record Check (
    • Character Reference Form (does not need to be an RSW)
    • Education Letter / Official Transcript*
  • Upon approval of application, pay $400 annual dues for practice permit (contact the office to request a payment plan if required).

*Official transcripts are sent directly from the school to ACSW and reflect the social work credential after graduation. ACSW will accept an education letter confirming you have completed all requirements of your social work program until the official transcript is available.

Student Members to Registered Social Worker

  • Student members will log into their profile to apply for registration and skip the survey and upload additional requirements like above.
  • Upon approval of application, student members will only pay $265 (instead of $400) for their first year of registration (contact the office to request a payment plan if required). 
Upgraded Social Work Credential

  • For those new grads who are already RSWs, congratulations on completing another social work credential! Please note, ACSW will not know that you upgraded your social work education unless you send an official transcript with your new social work credential.
  • If you went to an inactive registration status while in school, don’t forget to update your profile and convert your membership back to active.
  • If you canceled your membership, you will need to log into your profile and submit a reinstatement application.  
Practicums Impacted by COVID-19  

ACSW is aware of the COVID-19 accommodations that have been made for practicums by the appropriate accrediting bodies. These accommodations do not impact registration eligibility. As long as the program requirements are completed, ACSW will recognize your social work credentials for the purpose of registration from recognized accredited MSW, BSW, and Diploma social work programs. 

Please direct practicum questions to the appropriate person(s) at your school.

Student Memberships

Student memberships are available to students currently enrolled in a social work program. Membership provides the opportunity to apply for our student bursary, is a great way to connect to your profession, access to networking opportunities and a discount on first year of registration. Student membership is not registration and is only available to those who have not already registered as a social worker. For more information and to apply for student membership follow this link:

Social Workers have many options to meet their continuing competence requirements. Despite the cancellation of many in-person professional development events Category A requirements can be met.

Category A activities are informed by your learning plan goals which include intentional learning to increase or maintain social work knowledge, skill, ability, and/or judgement (KSA & J). If a continuing competence activity meets your learning plan goals you could consider it Category A. If an activity contributes to your knowledge, skill, ability, and/or judgement (KSA & J) as a social worker, but NOT a learning plan goal, that would be better considered as a Category B. If an activity does not address your learning plan goals, or KSA & J as a social worker, but energizes and restores you, that would be better considered as a Category C.

Example Activity: Webinar on Addictions and Trauma

Category A

Category B

Category C

I have a learning plan goal to learn more about trauma and how it manifests in clients. This webinar sounds like great Category A.

This training is required or available at my workplace. It's relevant to my practice, but not a learning plan goal. This webinar sounds like great Category B.

This training is free and looks fun. I love to learn – its how I like to spend my free time to make me feel like myself. While not the most likely example, it might even be great Category C.

All Category A activities require documentation. When completing data entry of your activities in the Continuing Competence section of your profile, if your provider of the activity is not on the list, use the “other” option and fill in the data entry box. If your activity comes without a certificate to act as documentation, use the Category A summary text box to briefly describe the activity, how it met your learning plan goals and increased or maintained your knowledge, skill, ability and/or judgement  as a social worker.

There are many online and free learning opportunities.

  • The ACSW offers online professional development. Stay current on our latest offerings in our bi-weekly email communication to members.
  • The CASW offers webinars on demand. Many topics may address learning plan goals and could make great Category A activities:
  • The University of Alberta offers a free course called “Indigenous Canada” that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada from an Indigenous perspective to help individuals acquire a basic familiarity with Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relationships. If this addresses a learning plan goal it may be a great Category A learning experience:

Clinical Applications

New Clinical Registry applications are only reviewed at Clinical Committee meetings. The schedule of those meetings is currently subject to change. The Clinical Registry is a voluntary registry that gives access to the protected title of Registered Clinical Social Worker and the recognition of advanced practice that comes with the title. As usual, RSWs who safely and competently practice clinical social work may continue to do so without this additional designation. Please review the Clinical Registry webpage if you are interested in exploring this designation in the future:

Current candidates that are receiving clinical supervision to meet requirements to join the clinical registry may have their direct practice hours and clinical supervision impacted. If you are unable to submit your evaluation form(s) as per your schedule, please communicate this to indicating Evaluation Extension. These temporary delays will not be held against your application process.

Clinical applications that are already submitted will still be reviewed at the next Clinical Committee meeting (subject to change based on changing conditions).

Virtual social work practice has increased with the onset of COVID-19. It is an ever-evolving area of practice with many considerations.

Effective December 13, 2020, public health orders outline that working from home is mandatory when physical presence is not required for operational effectiveness. Regulated health services can continue. Appointments with appropriate screening is recommended over walk-ins when and where appropriate. Practice does not need to be limited to one-on-one services as long as public health orders, general guidance for all workplaces and sector guidance is followed.

The Government is directing that wellness services cease under heightened orders, but not safe and competent regulated health services. Social workers are encouraged to increase precautions to protect clients and each other during this time. Please continue to reduce in-person contact as much as practical as it is the best way to reduce risk of spread of COVID-19. Virtual and remote service provision can be very effective for many areas of practice and many clients. 

Virtual social work practice includes the delivery of social work services:

  • using electronic devices such as: a computer, tablet, smart phone and telephone
  • using electronic platforms such as: the internet, social media, online chat, text and video

Consideration to providing virtual social work practice

ACSW Standards of Practice:

Review the Standards of Practice, in particular:

Section E.3 Technology in Social Work Practice


Section E.4 Limits on Practice and Adding New Services and Techniques

Confidentiality and Informed Consent:

Social workers are required to protect the confidentiality of all professionally acquired information and to obtain informed consent. As such, they will need to consider and seek consultation as needed around the following:

  • How will you ensure confidentiality on your end, the client’s end, and over the technology tool and online platform of choice?
  • How will your safely manage your record keeping ensuring appropriate levels of privacy?
  • How will you maintain records appropriate to the services provided?
  • How do you confirm the identity of your client(s)?
  • How will you manage new informed consent for this format of service provision?
  • How does the informed consent address confidentiality on their end and what steps to take if there is technology failure?
  • How does the informed consent address what is communicated via non-secure channels (e.g email, text)?


Social workers will be competent in the performance of services and functions they undertake on behalf of the persons they serve.

As such, they will need to consider and seek consultation as needed around the following:

  • Do you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to provide virtual social work practice?
  • Do you have the skills to manage the technology being used?
  • Do you have appropriate supervision/consultation to do this safely and competently?

Professional Liability Insurance:

Social workers will need to ensure that their professional liability insurance include virtual practice. Please contact your insurance provider directly.

Legal Entitlement to Practice Social Work in Another Jurisdiction:

Requirement to practice social work vary across jurisdictions. Should social workers choose to provide virtual practice to clients located in another province, state or country they will need to ensure that they are adhering to the regulatory requirement in both the jurisdiction of the client receiving services and the jurisdiction from where they are providing services. Please contact the appropriate regulatory bodies for registration requirements.

Registered social workers located out of Alberta who wish to provide social work services to persons in Alberta, either in person or virtually, may access the Courtesy Registry. Email and indicate "Courtesy Registry" for more information.

Privacy Impact Assessment:

When considering how they are managing privacy and confidentiality in communications, record keeping, and use of third-party software/platforms/etc, the social worker could consider a privacy impact assessment.

This is an evaluation process to assess and evaluate privacy, confidentiality or security risks associated with the collection, use or disclosure of personal health information, and to develop measures intended to mitigate and, wherever possible, eliminate identified risks.

For more information:

Other Considerations for Virtual Social Work Practice:

  • Emergency plans need to be in place. Social workers will need to ensure they know where the client is located in case emergency interventions are required. Additionally, to ensure they know emergency and crisis services available where the client is located.
  • Not all clients and social work services are appropriate for remote or virtual service provision. Professional judgement and supervision/consultation would be best practice when making these decisions.
  • Not all clients will accept the move to remote or virtual service provision. Consider how to make appropriate referrals for those in need or continue to provide urgent or emergency services in person, while following public health recommendations to do so.
  • Some clients may seek to continue remote or virtual service provision after the public health crisis. Consider how you might address this upfront in the new informed consent.
  • Counselling/therapy are areas of specialization that require education, experience, and supervision to be performed safely and competently - not all social workers are counselors/therapists.

Resources Related to Virtual Practice:

NASW, ASWB, CSWE and CSWA Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice (2017):

Social Work Today: Eye on Ethics

Toolkit for e-Mental Health Implementation (2017):

Canadian Association of Social Work (CASW) Virtual Counseling Resources

Alberta College of Psychologists (Revised 2019) Telepsychology Services – Practice Guidance×tamp=1575396294218

Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (2019) Guidelines for uses of technology in counselling and psychotherapy

As regulated health professionals, Registered Social Workers are among the people entrusted with carrying out an obligation to ensure the public is safe from risky behaviour by other regulated health professionals and clients. Like all citizens, regulated health professionals are expected to do our part by adhering to the public health orders.

We also have an obligation to take action when we see anyone, including clients, engaged in conduct that is a threat to public safety. The Health Professions Act directs a registered social worker to immediately notify the medical officer of health if they know or reasonably suspect the “existence of a nuisance or a threat that is or may be injurious or dangerous to the public health” ( Health Professions Act, Section 1.1(1)).

According the Public Health Act, a “nuisance” is a condition that is or that might become injurious or dangerous to the public health, or that might hinder in any manner the prevention or suppression of disease.

This generally means two things for registered social workers (RSWs):

  1. Social Workers are obligated to follow public health directions in the personal and professional behavior. The Alberta government's COVIS-19 information page and Public Health orders in Alberta  Social Workers are obligated to educate other regulated health professionals who do not appear to be following public health orders and report to the appropriate college if they continue to behave contrary to public health orders.
  2. Social Workers are obligated to educate clients who do not appear to be following public health orders and report to those who repeatedly behave contrary to public health orders despite individualized education. This may involve breaking confidentiality in order to protect public health (Standards of Practice D.7). Public health order violation reports can be made with this web form .

In addition to following public health orders, Social Workers will also follow employers’ directions and policies when it is ethical and appropriate to do so. If the Alberta College of Social Workers receives a report that a Social Worker  is not following public health orders, that Social Workers  may be subject to a public health order violation report, suspension of practice permit, and/or complaint for unprofessional conduct.

While caring for and connecting our clients to necessities during this time, we must also do our part to reduce and eliminate the spread of COVID-19.

Volunteers have an important role in providing services to vulnerable citizens in our communities who need help the most. During a time of crisis, social workers want to help. Information on how to volunteer safely while continuing to follow the public health directives to protect yourself and those you are helping is provided by the Government of Alberta. Please consider the current needs in your community and where your help is needed the most.

Take care of yourself before you take care of others. The best way to do your part in response to the ever evolving COVID-19 situation is to practice good hygiene, maintaining social distancing, and addressing your own mental and physical well being.

  • Maintain a routine - Having structure allows us to go about our day with purpose and it offers meaning in our lives when times are difficult.
  • Let some light in! - If you’re staying indoors, make sure to open your curtains or blinds, even if it’s not sunny outside.
  • Get some fresh air - Make sure to open a window or door to let that flow of air in, even if it’s just for a short while, or talk a walk outside :)
  • Exercise - While you probably won’t be able to attend a gym, there is nothing stopping you from doing some at home workouts.
  • Read - Even if reading isn’t your usual cup of tea, it’s a great way to pass time and relieve boredom.
  • Start a new hobby - A period of self isolation or social distancing is a great time to pick up a new hobby.
  • Meditate - Even taking ten minutes out of your day to meditate can have a huge impact on your mental health.
  • Use technology mindfully
  • Connect via phone or video chat - Make sure to take advantage of technology and stay in contact with others to reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Stay healthy
  • Keep your mind active - One way to reduce feelings of boredom is to keep the mind active and engaged. A puzzle is a great way to keep your mind focused as well as your hands busy.
  • Journal - This will help you release thoughts rather than letting them linger in your mind.
  • Practice gratitude - Practicing gratitude can help you look on the bright side and keep a positive mindset during challenging times.
  • Practice affirmations - Positive affirmations can help you to stay on the bright side and reduce fear and anxiety.
  • Get organized - This can give your mental health a boost by making you feel productive and giving you some purpose during this confusing time.
(excerpts from

Be kind and gentle to yourself and others.

It's okay to ask for help. You know yourself best and it's okay to seek professional supports. Phone the Mental Health Help Line (1-877-303-2642) to find local mental health supports in Alberta.

World Health Organization's statement on Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak: Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention: Emergency Responders: Tips for taking care of yourself":