Scope of Practice for Social Service Work

The formal training for a social service worker is an approved diploma from a two-year program (or accelerated equivalent) offered at an Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT); students will spend approximately 500 – 700 hours in field placement throughout their program, or have a combination of academic qualifications and experience that is substantially equivalent to a social service worker diploma. 

Workplace settings for social service workers may include but are not limited to: 

  • Group homes and settlement agencies 
  • Income support programs 
  • Crisis centres 
  • Community resource centres 
  • Housing support programs

The scope of practice of the profession of social service work means the assessment, treatment, and evaluation of individual, interpersonal and societal problems using social service work knowledge, skills, interventions and strategies, to assist individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities to enhance social functioning and/or to reduce systemic barriers and promote equity, inclusion and belonging. This includes:

SSW1 – Assessing, treating and evaluating services within a relationship between a social service worker and a client;

SSW2 – Supervising and/or consulting with a social service worker or social service work student or other supervisee;

SSW3 – Providing social support to individuals and/or groups including relationship-building, life skills instruction, employment and tangible support (including food and financial assistance), and information and referral services;

SSW4 – Educating social service work students and other professionals and paraprofessionals;

SSW5 – Developing, promoting, managing, administrating, delivering and evaluating human service programs, which may be done in collaboration with other professionals;

SSW6 – Organizing and/or mobilizing community members and/or other professionals in the promotion of social change and/or in the elimination of structural and systemic racism and oppression in the context of direct client care;

SSW7 – Providing contractual consultation services to social service workers, other professionals, organizations and/or communities as they relate to direct/indirect, clinical/non-clinical care or services;

SSW8 – Developing, promoting, implementing and evaluating social policies; 

SSW9 – Conducting research related to the practice of social service work, as defined in paragraphs (1) to (8) above; and

SSW10 – Any other activities approved by the College.

Additional Resources:
Scopes of Practice Paper

If College registrants are unclear about whether specific activities fall within the scope of practice of social service work and their professional obligations in that regard, College registrants should consult with the College’s Professional Practice Department.

When the certificate of registration of a social service worker is suspended, they shall not engage in the practice of social service work, including but not limited to the activities listed above. Engaging in the practice of social service work while the certificate is suspended constitutes an act of professional misconduct. 

College registrants who have an inactive or retired certificate of registration also shall not engage in the practice of social service work, including but not limited to the activities listed above.

The Standards of Practice apply to the professions of social work and social service work. The Principles and Interpretations set out in the Standards of Practice are to be applied in the context of the scope of practice of each profession.