Principle III: Responsibility to Clients

College registrants shall ensure that professional services are provided responsibly to those persons, groups, communities or organizations seeking their assistance.


3.1 College registrants shall not discriminate against anyone, including but not limited to on the basis of citizenship, race, place of origin, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, ancestry, creed, sex (including pregnancy), family status, marital status, genetic characteristics, religion, worldview, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, class, social-economic status or ability. 

3.2 College registrants shall adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canada Human Rights Act, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where applicable, in the provision of services. 

3.3 College registrants shall obtain informed consent from clients, where needed, before providing social work or social service work services, including but not limited to, by: 

  • providing accurate and complete information about the services available; 
  • explaining the advantages and disadvantages of receiving/not receiving services; 
  • describing the expectations and limitations of service; 
  • explaining clients’ rights with respect to capacity, privacy and confidentiality; 
  • clarifying registrants’ mandatory reporting obligations and other limits to confidentiality (for more information see Principle V: Confidentiality, interpretation 5.1.3); and 
  • providing information in a way that is appropriate for the client’s cognitive ability.

3.4 College registrants shall deliver client services and respond to client queries, concerns, and/or complaints in a timely and reasonable manner.

3.5 College registrants shall not solicit their employers’ clients for private practice, whether their employer is an individual or an organization (including an organization with whom the registrant has an independent service contract). However, College registrants may accept referrals from their employers.

3.6 In circumstances where a client makes an unsolicited request to follow a College registrant from an organization to their private practice, the College registrant shall ensure that doing so would not create a conflict of interest. College registrants shall not accept such a request unless they are the most appropriate person to deliver the services and the client would not be better served by another professional. 

3.7 College registrants shall assist potential clients to obtain other services if College registrants are unable to provide the requested professional help.

3.8 College registrants shall not offer a service and/or product that the registrant knows or ought reasonably to know is not likely to benefit the client and/or that is not relevant to the client’s needs.

3.9 College registrants shall provide only those services and/or products that are relevant to the client’s needs and shall provide them in a manner that conforms to College standards.

3.10 College registrants shall terminate professional services to clients when the contract for service ends and/or services are no longer required or requested. It is professional misconduct to discontinue professional services that are needed except when one or more of the following exist: 

i) the client requests the discontinuation; 

ii) the client withdraws from the service; 

iii) the services provided no longer benefit the client; 

iv) continuing service would require the registrant to contravene ethical and/or legal requirements; 

v) the provision of services to the client has created a situation where the College registrant’s values, ethics and/or boundaries have been violated to the extent that the College registrant is unable to provide appropriate professional services; 

vi) the client has repeatedly, and without adequate explanation, cancelled or changed appointment or meeting times to the extent that the College registrant and/or the organization experiences or believes that financial hardship and/or service disruption will occur; 

vii) the client is unable or unwilling to reimburse the College registrant or the College registrant’s employer for services rendered, when such reimbursement has been previously agreed to by the client and is both appropriate and required as a condition of providing services (see Principle VI: Fees); or 

viii) continuing to provide the services would place the College registrant at serious risk of harm. 

In the circumstances described in subparagraphs i-vii, the College registrant shall make reasonable efforts to hold a termination session with the client and shall provide an explanation for discontinuing the services.

3.11 College registrants who terminate professional services to clients make reasonable efforts to arrange alternative or replacement services; and/or give the client a reasonable opportunity to arrange alternative or replacement services.

3.12 College registrants who anticipate the termination or interruption of service to clients shall ensure that clients are notified promptly and that arrangements are made for the termination, transfer, referral, or continuation of service in accordance with clients’ needs and preferences.

3.13 In a situation where a College registrant has a personal relationship with a former client, the registrant shall assume full responsibility for demonstrating that the former client has not been exploited, coerced or manipulated, either intentionally or unintentionally, in the context of that personal relationship. College registrants shall not engage in personal relationships with former clients when the relationship would create a conflict of interest or where the relationship is otherwise prohibited.

3.14 Where appropriate, College registrants shall advocate for and/or with clients and shall ensure that clients are kept informed about actions taken and their outcome. College registrants adhere to Principle V: Confidentiality when providing advocacy services.