Frequently Asked Questions


1. Why should I join the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) when I already belong to the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW)?

OASW and the College both carry significant roles related to the profession, however their mandates are separate and distinct. OASW is a voluntary organization whose primary role is to increase the profile and promote the interests of social work - we are the VOICE of the profession. By contrast, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) is a legislated body whose "primary duty is to serve and protect the public interest". OASW furthers its mandate by promoting and positioning the profession, advancing the interests of the profession and meeting emerging trends.

At the foundation of OASW activities is a strong commitment to social justice and human rights. Member benefits include a wide array of timely and relevant membership services (e.g., discounted professional liability insurance, reduced fees to select fitness clubs, access to health and life insurance programs, etc). As a voluntary professional membership organization, OASW derives its authority from its members. OCSWSSW accomplishes its mandate by maintaining a register of members, investigating complaints from the public and establishing a code of ethics and standards of practice for the professions it regulates. OCSWSSW operates within a legal framework receiving its authority from the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 and is accountable to the public.

2.  Is having a professional association unique to social work?

Professional associations are the hallmark of all established professions (e.g., nurses, physicians, lawyers, teachers, accountants, physiotherapists, dietitians and engineers). As noted in the previous question, professional associations provide leadership and advance the interests and concerns of the profession in the broader community, e.g., with government, the public, media and within practice sectors. Services are funded by the membership through membership fees. The Ontario Medical Association is probably the best-known example of a provincial professional association.

3.  Do professional associations carry the same role as a union?

Professional associations are different from unions, which focus on the structure of work, employment contracts, salaries and benefits, and working conditions. Professional associations provide leadership and advance the interests and concerns of the profession.

4.   What do membership fees cover?

Your membership fees support OASW's professional and social advocacy at the local and provincial levels. A portion of membership fees is directed to the OASW Branches to fund local activities and initiatives. The remainder of revenues generated by membership fees funds work by the Provincial Board and Provincial Office on your behalf related to a wide range of activities to advance the interests and concerns of the profession.

5.   Why are there different membership fee categories?

OASW established different fee categories to recognize that employment status can impact on the ability of members and potential members to pay to belong to their professional association. The criteria used to determine eligibility for specific fee categories are the number of paid hours of work performed weekly. Regardless of a member's employment status and the related fee category, all members have access to the same OASW benefits and services. This principle of equity in accessing services is in keeping with a core social work value. Hours of paid work has been determined to be a relatively objective and non-intrusive measure upon which to make such decisions.

6.  Why are OASW fees different from the College's fees?

The College's fees are based upon its activities related to protecting the public, developing standards of professional practice and a code of ethics. To use the title 'social worker' registration with the OCSWSSW is required. As a result, the membership base is roughly three to four times that of OASW. OASW's fees are paid voluntarily and are used for a myriad of activities to profile and promote the profession, such as the costs associated with conducting ongoing advocacy on behalf of the profession and the client groups within an ever-changing political landscape. Revenues generated by membership fees pay for these activities. With a membership of approximately one third of the College, costs are shouldered by a comparatively small membership, yet this advocacy benefits the entire profession.

7.  Do other provinces/territories have both a college and a professional association?

The regulation of social work practice falls under provincial jurisdiction and this determines whether provincial colleges and associations are separate or joint bodies. In Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, the provincial government maintains that it is a conflict of interest for the body protecting the public (The College) to also be responsible for advancing the interests of the profession (The Association) and insists on an arm's-length relationship.