Bringing the Standards of Practice to life: Standard 2

Standard 2: Clients

In social work practice, social workers place professional service before personal goals or advantage and strive for impartiality in their professional practice. They must refrain from imposing their personal values, views, preferences, stereotypes/assumptions on clients and seek to understand the lived experiences of those whom they serve. It is the responsibility of social workers to establish the tone of their professional relationship with clients, and others to whom they have a professional duty, and to maintain professional boundaries. 

There are 26 individual standards about Clients that outline the responsibilities of a Registered Social Worker. Some examples are:

  • Social Workers shall maintain the best interests of clients as the primary professional obligation.
  • Social Workers shall seek to safeguard the rights and interests of clients who have limited or impaired decision-making capacity when acting on their behalf, or when collaborating with others who are acting for the client.
  • Any action that violates or diminishes the civil or legal rights of clients shall only be taken after careful evaluation of the situation
  • Social Workers who have reason to believe a child, elder or other vulnerable person is being harmed and is in need of protection shall report their concerns to the proper authorities as required by legislation. 
  • Social Workers shall not terminate a professional relationship for the purpose of entering into a personal or business relationship with a client. 

Social work is founded on a long-standing commitment to respect the inherent dignity and individual worth of all persons. When required by law to override a client’s wishes social workers take care to use minimum coercion required.


Throughout 2020 the NSCSW will be sharing our Standards of Practice with social workers and members of the public.

The College’s Standards of Practice detail the responsibilities of social workers to their clients, colleagues, employers, and society. In sharing these standards, we hope to engage the public and our members in understanding the uniqueness of the profession. 

The Standards of Practice perform several functions, which include: 

  • Establish professional expectations for social workers
  • Promote the protection of the public.
  • Provide a basis for professional development and continuing education.
  • Put into action the values, ethics, knowledge and skills expected of social workers.
  • Enhance the value and credibility of the profession.

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