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National Social Work Organization Secures Federal Government Study on the Social Work Workforce

Study will explore recruitment, retention, and other factors, make recommendations

NASW, together with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a social worker and chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, have secured a comprehensive government study to be conducted on the social work workforce.

The study was ordered through the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 15. The report is to explore recruitment, retention, research, and reinvestment, and provide recommendations and strategies to ensure a sufficient and strong social work workforce

Millions of Americans are not receiving the mental, behavioral health, and social care services they need, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for these services. Ensuring a strong and sufficient social work workforce is more important than ever to meet this moment. This urgently needed study is a key step in achieving that goal.

“Social workers provide services in the community across many different settings” says Sarah Butts, MSW, NASW’s director of public policy. “It’s critical that we have workforce data about the profession, including the scope and contributions of social workers and that there is investment so that we can recruit and retain a highly skilled and diverse workforce.”

The study provision included in the just-passed Appropriations bill was previously included in the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act that Rep. Lee and other lawmakers introduced in prior Congresses.

Below is the text of the NASW supported language that was included in the House Appropriations Committee report:

Social Work Reinvestment Commission — The Committee is aware that millions of Americans are not receiving the mental, behavioral, and social care services they need. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for services. The nation’s 700,000 social workers are the largest provider of these services, so it is imperative that we ensure a robust social work workforce. As such, the Committee directs the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in collaboration with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Office of Minority Health (OMH), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to conduct a study and to report to Congress and the Secretary on policy issues related to social work recruitment, retention, research, and reinvestment. Not later than 18 months after enactment of this Act, HRSA shall submit its findings and recommendations regarding recommendations and strategies to ensure a sufficient and strong social work workforce.

Source: NASW