111th Congress Urged to Support Social Work Reinvestment

New York Congressman Ed Towns Champions Safety Net Profession

Washington, DC - Congress has reintroduced legislation to strengthen the social work workforce.   The workforce, currently at 600,000 professionally trained members, is facing significant challenges including an impending shortage.  Today, U.S. Representative Edolphus “Ed” Towns reintroduced the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act to address challenges facing a profession that helps millions reach their full potential. 

H.R. 795 calls for a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to provide recommendations and strategies associated with the recruitment, retention, and research in the profession of social work. Specifically, the Commission will analyze how issues such as fair market compensation, educational debt, labor trends, social work research, workplace safety, and state-level licensure contribute to the lack of a sufficient social work workforce. 

In addition, the House bill’s proposed demonstration programs would fund competitive grants in the areas of workplace improvements; research, education and training; and community-based programs of excellence to guide effective solutions in the recruitment and retention of social workers. A companion Senate bill is expected in the coming weeks. When the 110th Congress ended last year, the Social Work Reinvestment Act had 84 House co-sponsors and 14 Senate co-sponsors, including former Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

 “A healthy society is one filled with people who can participate fully in family and community life,” says Rep. Towns. “Social workers make it possible for millions of Americans struggling with mental illness, unemployment, disabilities, addictions, violence and abuse, and chronic health conditions to transcend these challenges.  This Act ensures that these dedicated professionals will have what they need to continue strengthening our communities.” 

“Social workers are society’s safety net, and in our current economy, the need for a safety net has grown to include and protect a diverse group of people from all walks of life, says Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers.  “However, serious safety concerns, significant educational debt, and comparatively insufficient salaries are threatening the ability of our nation’s social workers to provide essential social services. Social workers need better support to provide quality care to those most in need.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 132,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy. Dr. Dorothy I. Height and the late Whitney M. Young, Jr. are two prominent figures in the American Civil Rights Movement, and are distinguished NASW Social Work Pioneers.

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