Chapter 11: The Social Work Record and the Courts

Additional Recommended Readings

Cumming, S., E. Fitzpatrick, D. McAuliffe, S. McCain, C. Martin, and A. Tonge (2007). Raising the Titanic: Rescuing Social Work Documentation from the Sea of Ethical Risk. Australian Social Work, 60(2), 239–257. Retrieved from,%20et%20al%20-%20Raising%20the%20Titanic%20-%20Rescuing%20SW%20Documentation.pdf.

This article examines the importance of good documentation in social work practice from a risk management and ethical risk perspective, and makes recommendations for improving documentation.

Kahn, M.W., S.K. Bell, J. Walker. and T. Delbanco (2014). Opinion: Let’s Show Patients Their Mental Health Record. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(13), 1291–1292. Retrieved from

This article discusses the benefits associated with physicians providing patients with access to their mental health records.

Relevant Legislation



British Columbia:


New Brunswick:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Nova Scotia:

  • Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, S.N.S. 1993, c. 5


Prince Edward Island:



Northwest Territories:


Yukon Territory:

Discussion Questions

  1. What is a social worker’s obligation to ensure the confidentiality of the clinical record and under what circumstances will the social worker be required to reveal the record?
  2. What precautions should a social worker take in preparing clinical records in order to ensure that clients’ rights are protected?
  3. How might a social worker best prepare for a court appearance?
  4. What are the ethical obligations of social workers when preparing assessments for the courts?