RSWs can Act Now to Improve Resident Quality of Life in Long-Term Care

January 17, 2023

The Government of Ontario has launched a new Resident Health and Well-Being Program in long-term care. The program makes approximately $20-million in funding available over three years to non-profit, for-profit and municipal LTC operators to bring on dedicated psychosocial support, including Registered Social Workers (RSWs).

This is an essential start to increasing supports to residents of long-term care homes and their families/caregivers. It's also an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate the value of social work in the delivery of this care.

RSWs can make a difference in improving the quality of life for residents in long-term care homes, now. LTC homes will be acting quickly to identify potential resources, as the first round of funding is intended to be used by March 31.

If you are interested in working with older adults and their families, you can learn more about how you can take advantage of this opportunity below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Resident Health and Well-Being Program

1. What is the Resident Health and Well-Being Program?

The Resident Health and Well-Being (RHWB) program is intended to enhance resident access to social support services provided by Registered Social Workers (RSWs), Registered Social Service Workers (RSSWs) and other Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) to increase overall health, well-being and quality of life in long-term care (LTC) homes. In doing so, the program will support residents to achieve optimum psychosocial and social functioning. 

To support this program, the Ministry of Long-Term Care is providing up to $19,963,600 over three years to LTC homes to provide health and wellbeing social support services to LTC residents by expanding access to RSWs, RSSWs and other eligible AHPs. The new program aims to increase the provision of these services provided by RSWs, RSSWs and other AHPs, towards a best practice minimum of 30 minutes of care per resident every four weeks. 

2. I am aware that government is increasing hours of direct care, including care provided by RSWs and other Allied Health Professionals (AHP) to residents in LTC. Is this additional funding?

Yes, this new investment is in addition to funding currently being provided to LTC home licensees to increase AHP staffing levels and direct hours of care for residents.

3. What expenses are considered eligible under the RHWB Program?

Beginning January 1, 2023, examples of eligible expenses under the RHWB Program include:

  • Salaries, wages, and benefits for RSWs, RSSWs and other AHPs hired to provide social support services for residents or to top up hours for existing staff (RSWs, RSSWs, other AHPs) to convert part-time to full-time positions.
  • Salaries and wages related to the purpose of increasing wages for existing staff (RSWs, RSSWs, other AHPs).
  • Salaries, wages, and benefits for RSWs, RSSWs and other AHPs from a third-party placement agency or independently contracted to provide social support services for residents.

4. How can LTC homes access funding for the RHWB Program?

Effective January 1, 2023, funding for the RHWB Program will flow to non-profit, for-profit, and municipal LTC home licensees, in fixed monthly installments, paid through the regular monthly payment schedule. LTC home licensees cannot redirect unused funds outside of the RHWB Program. These shall be returned to the Ministry.

5. I am an RSW who is interested in full-time or part-time employment in an LTC home OR I am a private practitioner/independent contractor and I believe I can be of service in increasing the psychosocial and social functioning of residents in LTC. How can I help?

This is wonderful news! If this applies to you, please consider reaching out to your local LTC home to introduce yourself by email or telephone to the home Administrator to have a discussion about the RHWB Program and how you are positioned to assist. See below for a template email that you can adapt for your needs:

Dear [Name] or Administrator, 
My name is [X] and I am a Registered Social Worker (RSW) reaching out to you about new funding recently announced by the Ministry of Long-Term Care for the Resident Health and Well-Being (RHWB) Program. The RHWB program began in January 2023 and is intended to support residents to achieve optimum psychosocial and social functioning by enhancing their access to services provided by RSWs over the next three years.
As an RSW, with experience in [briefly outline the experience you bring to support the psychosocial functioning of residents], I would be happy to speak with you about how I can assist, including [list those services you are trained to provide AND your interest in doing so on a contract basis OR share your interest in part-time or full-time employment with the home].
Please let me know if you would like to set up a brief call to discuss this important funding, my qualifications, and how I can assist. I can be reached at: [share your contact telephone number if you are comfortable doing so].


6. How can I find out if the LTC home already has an RSW in place?

In some cases, the LTC home you are contacting may already have an RSW(s) in place. Unless the home lists this on their website, you may not know this in advance of your reach out to them. Upon contacting the Administrator, if you learn there is already an RSW within the home, that’s great! Thank the Administrator for recognizing the value of the social work role and offer any additional details about the program (see Q3) that may assist the current RSW or home to expand this care. (1)

7. Why should an LTC home consider increasing care provided by RSWs and how can I describe the benefits?

As the largest regulated profession providing psychotherapy and counselling services in Ontario, and the primary provider of psychosocial care across the continuum of health care, RSWs are key to the provision of psychosocial care for residents and family caregivers within LTC homes.

The inclusion of RSWs within LTC has been proven to return the greatest value in investment in staffing dollars related to quality of resident outcomes and reduce responsive behaviours/behaviour changes due to dementia, decreasing use of antipsychotic medications. 

The Canadian Guidelines on Prevention, Assessment and Treatment of Depression Among Older Adults has also reaffirmed the vital need for psychotherapy and psychosocial treatments for older adults living with depression in LTC. (2) With older adults in LTC being three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than those living in the community, RSWs are an asset to the mental health of LTC residents, their family caregivers, and the interdisciplinary care team alike. (3)

8. How can I describe the type of work an RSW does in an LTC home?

Administrators in LTC homes may have a varied understanding of the social work role in LTC. OASW’s LTC Subcommittee has developed a list of core social work functions in LTC to assist in discussion about the role, informed by literature on the topic. (4)(5)(6)(7)   

  • Psychosocial assessment of residents as a basis for interdisciplinary care planning and intervention conducted in collaboration with residents and partners in care, including family caregivers.
  • Provision of mental health services or referral for such services as needed, including the provision of crisis intervention and support.
  • Psychosocial interventions with individuals, families, and groups related to a range of health, social, and emotional needs.
  • Psychosocial support during palliative and end-of-life care to allow residents to live with optimal quality of life and aid family caregivers to prepare for and cope with life limiting illness including assistance with Advance Care Planning.
  • Provision of specialized care to those living with dementia, including non-pharmacological interventions to address responsive behaviours/changes in behaviour and serving as a resource to staff on this.
  • Delivery of resident and family education related to illness, including teaching coping and problem-solving skills to maintain or enhance psychosocial functioning. 
  • Case management services to facilitate coordination and continuity of care and to assist residents and families with obtaining necessary services in the home or in the community.
  • Collaborate, liaise with, and advocate for residents and family caregivers, including coordination-of-care planning meetings and participation on Family Councils; support with mediation and communication between residents, family caregivers and the interdisciplinary team.
  • Education and consultation to the interdisciplinary team on a variety of topics, such as person-centred care, palliative approaches to care, culturally appropriate and responsive care, gender, ability, race, language, sexual orientation and the intersections of these for residents in LTC.
  • Consultation on ethical dilemmas and provision of social work lens in support of ethical decision-making.
  • Application of knowledge of relevant legislation as a resource and advocate for residents and their family caregivers as this relates to the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, Power of Attorney, Substitute Decision Making and more; knowledge of relevant government benefits and ability to assist residents to apply for these. 
  • Supervision of students on practicum.
  • Leading and/or collaborating on research projects.

*Answers related to the RHWB Program supplied in this FAQ are based upon OASW’s interpretation of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s “Policy: 2022-23 Resident Health and Well-Being Program.” For specific questions about the program, please contact the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

(1) Restorick Roberts, A., Smith, A.C. & Bowblis. J.R. (2019). Impact of social service staffing on nursing home quality and resident outcomes. Retrieved from  

(2) Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health. (2021). Canadian guidelines on prevention, assessment and treatment of depression among older adults. Retrieved from  

(3) Canadian Institute for Health Information, (2022). Canadian seniors living in long-term care 3 times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than seniors living in the community. Retrieved from

(4) Canadian Association of Social Workers. (2002). Social work in long-term care. Retrieved from 

(5) Wong, K. L. Y.  (2021).  How do social workers working in long-term care understand their roles? Using British Columbia, Canada as an example.  Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64(5), 452-470.  DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2021.1900479

(6) University of Iowa. (n.d.) Best practice social work role functions in long term care. Retrieved from

(7) Simons, K., Connolly, R.P., Bonifas, R., Allen, P.D., Bailey, K., Downes, D., & Galambos, C. (2012). Psychosocial assessment of nursing home residents via MDS 3.0: recommendations for social service training, staffing, and roles in interdisciplinary care. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.13(2), 190.e9-190.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2011.07.005. PMID: 21856244.

About OASW
OASW is the voice of the social work profession in Ontario. It is a voluntary, provincial, non-profit association which represents over 8,500 members. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.