2022 Edition

Financial Education and Counselling Services (CA-FEC) 3: Service Initiation

The organization’s service initiation and assessment practices ensure clients receive prompt and responsive access to a customized course of service for their financial situation.




Clients who receive Financial Education and Counselling services learn to solve financial problems and gain personal financial management skills.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • In a few rare instances, urgent needs were not prioritized; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Urgent needs are often not prioritized; or 
  • Services are frequently not initiated in a timely manner; or
  • Applicants are not receiving referrals, as appropriate; or 
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessments are sometimes not sufficiently individualized; 
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm, and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Intake or assessment is done by another organization or referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information is present in case record. 
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • There are no written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Service initiation procedures
  • Privacy policy
  • Disclosure statement
  • Procedures for telephone or internet counselling
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Procedures for referring individuals to services
  • Procedures regarding fees
  • Referral directory
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Clients
  • Review client files


CA-FEC 3.01

Prompt, responsive service initiation practices:
  1. support timely initiation of services and identify what services will be available and when; and
  2. ensure consumers are not denied access to services.


Services cannot be denied for any reason, including the need for counselling without a DMP, unemployment, self-employment, or types of debt.

Fundamental Practice

CA-FEC 3.02

Clients receive a privacy policy and disclosure statement upon initiation of in-person sessions and at the conclusion of telephone or Internet sessions that includes the following information:
  1. a process for obtaining authorization prior to providing services via the telephone or internet, as applicable; 
  2. the process for verifying consumer identity prior to responding to information requests;
  3. how the organization obtains funding;
  4. the process for obtaining the client’s credit report, and the potential impact service may have on credit reports, as applicable;
  5. how confidential information is stored and used;
  6. the complaint tracking and resolution process;
  7. debt relief options the client may pursue including working directly with creditors, a debt management program, and attorney-assisted options; and
  8. disclosure of fees for the initial session.
Examples: Proper identification information may be, for example, a password, account number, or social insurance number.


CA-FEC 3.03

Clients participate in an individualized, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment during the initial counselling session to obtain a complete financial picture that includes:
  1. a preliminary evaluation of the request for service and client goals;
  2. an evaluation of income, expenses, assets and liabilities, as appropriate; 
  3. a review of the client’s housing status, including an affordability analysis and any potential threats to safe and adequate housing; and
  4. determination of the need for related service referrals when the person cannot be served, or cannot be served promptly.
Examples: Additional information may be gathered from sources such as credit reports, creditor statements, utility bills, mortgage statements, or pay stubs. The organization also may collect information related to the client’s employment, education, buying habits, significant expenditures, current and expected future income, secured and unsecured debt, health and other life issues that may affect their financial situation, and any significant changes in their earnings, assets, liabilities, and expenses, including the reason for those changes.


CA-FEC 3.04

The organization provides appropriate housing counselling and education and/or provides referrals to other organizations within the client’s community when the assessment identifies potential threats to a client’s housing status.
Examples: Examples of potential threats to a client’s housing status can include when housing costs represent a substantial portion of the client’s net income and when housing is threatened due to rent, mortgage, property tax, and/or utility delinquencies.

Fundamental Practice

CA-FEC 3.05

Organizations that charge fees: 
  1. do not deny service based on inability to pay; 
  2. do not charge fees in advance of service; 
  3. establish reasonable fees for services; and 
  4. ensure the fee structure complies with applicable federal and provincial law.
NA The organization does not charge fees.