The Social Service Practitioners Advocacy Network (SSPAN) was established in November 2008 mainly to promote the participation of social service practitioners in the finalisation of a new Act governing the sector. The Children’s Institute housed the secretariat of SSPAN until May 2011, when the project was closed.

The draft Social Service Professions and Occupations Bill, which is due to replace the Social Service Professionals Act, offers the opportunity to reform an outdated legislative framework. SSPAN was formed because it was essential that social service practitioners engage with the draft Bill, and advocate for improvements.

Several organisations were involved the establishment of the network: Childline, Child Welfare South Africa, Children’s Institute (University of Cape Town), the Disabled Children’s Action Group, the National Alliance for Child and Youth Care Workers, the National Alliance for Street Children, the National Early Childhood Development Alliance, and the National Welfare Forum.

The finalisation of the Bill was put on hold in 2010 after Cabinet issued a political directive that all new Bills must be supported by a policy document that outlines the vision of the legislation, and its intended impact. The Department of Social Development’s 2010 strategic plan said that the Bill will not be tabled in Parliament before 2014. Since then the department has been working to complete the accompanying policy outlining vision and intended impact of the legislation.

In response, SSPAN convened representatives from child and youth care, community care, early childhood development, probation and social work to discuss the department's draft Social Service Professions Policy and to develop a joint advocacy strategy. This resulted in network members drafting submissions on the policy, and meeting with the department to discuss the desired content of the policy.

This project was funded by the DG Murray Trust.