As a recognized profession, social work professional organisations in different parts of the world outline standards of proficiency for regulating safe, effective and ethical practices. Apart from the code of ethics, the standards of proficiency are usually the threshold standards on the expected competency following the completion of the social work degree. Thus, most of the time, the regulators often accredit the education programs or curricula and offer licensures to those who completed the accredited programs.

Overseas experiences, such as from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Singapore, offer us good references for development of social work profession in Hong Kong. The professional development in these places is usually initiated and managed by professional associations, which are independent of the licensing department and tertiary educational institutes. At the same time, the general professional standard is complemented with guidelines of specialised field due to the growing complexity of the profession.

WHY: The objectives

Hong Kong society has become more complex and challenging, social workers have to enhance their competency for specific social problems. There is a lack of a systematic and structure to nurture social workers’ professional competency leading to service specialisation and best practice in their respective fields of practice.

  • To develop a professional competency framework for the social work profession in Hong Kong
  • To develop specific areas of practice knowledge and skill
WHAT: Definition of terms

Competence and Competency are often used interchangeably in social work literature. As suggested by Teodorescu (2006), competence equates with “worthy performance that leads directly to the most efficient accomplishment of organisational goals” whereas competency defines as the knowledge, skills, attributes and behaviors that people should have with successful performance. 1. As we focus on the individual social worker, the word “Competency” is used. The Social Work PCF in Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore also use the phrase “Professional Competency Framework”.

Social Work Professional Competency Framework (PCF) is defined as the collection of knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, personal qualities and motivation of the individuals in social work profession who have successful performance. Adopting a holistic view, instead of a checklist, PCF offers aspirations for social work for professional development. The PCF is applicable to individuals in different stages of their career paths.

The General Social Work PCF applies for all fields of practice while Specific Social Work PCFs outline particular attributes for social workers in specialised areas of practice.

1 Teodorescu, T. (2006). Competence versus competency: What is the difference? Performance Improvement, 45(10), 27-30. Doi: 10.1002/pfi.030

HOW: The Research
WHO: The Team

Prinicipal Investigator:

Amy YM CHOW         


Siu Ming CHAN


Shirley SL HUNG 

Ching Man LAM  

Jessica CM LI 


WHAT: The Products
Why do we not adopt international PCF but develop our own?

Social work profession is situated in a larger social, cultural and political context. While there are shared components with the international PCFs, there are localised components. When the Hong Kong PCF is developed, we referred to the available PCFs around the world and collect views from local representatives of practitioners, managers, ex-service users, teachers and researchers from consensus workshops and Delphi studies. These local PCFs are integrated framework. 

The problems and needs of the users are changing, are there any periodic updates of the PCFs?

The PCFs will be updated every 3 years.