2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities

Recommendations to the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress

diverse people, some wearing masks, family, small child

Our nation’s 700,000 professional social workers are an essential workforce and the largest provider of mental and behavioral health and social care services. Social workers develop and champion policies to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, especially those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and/or living in poverty. 

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) warmly welcomes the Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress. We are delighted to share our 2021 Blueprint of Federal Social Policy Priorities outlining urgently needed policy solutions in 21 issue areas. It is organized according to the Grand Challenges for Social Work which is a science supported agenda for social progress, developed by the social work profession. The recommendations are immediate, tangible and meaningful steps to promote mental and behavioral health, address economic inequality, and ensure that civil and human rights are protected for everyone. We welcome the opportunity to work with you, our 60+ national coalitions and other stakeholders to achieve an America as good as its ideals.

Social workers have a long history of helping to promote policy solutions to challenging societal problems. Social worker Harry Hopkins played a critical role in policy development during the Great Depression while serving as a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt also appointed social worker Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor, making her the first woman ever appointed to a federal cabinet position. Many of the architects of the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty were social workers. Whitney M. Young, Jr. (past President of NASW) is widely recognized as the coauthor of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative. Dorothy I. Height worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. on landmark reforms for children and families.

Given our profession’s long history in advancing social justice, it is no surprise that five members of Congress are social workers, and countless others can be found among the ranks of current and former administration officials and congressional staff. Social workers not only provide direct services in a broad range of settings including but not limited to healthcare facilities, schools, child welfare agencies and correctional institutions, they also lead health and human services agencies, perform cutting-edge research and develop and implement sound federal, state and local policy.

We look forward to continuing to partner with Congress, the administration and other stakeholders in advance these priorities.

The Priorities

Support Our Essential Social Work Workforce

The nation’s 700,00 social workers are an essential workforce and have been since the founding of the profession over a century ago. We are among the most racially diverse mental and behavioral health and healthcare professions and provide critically needed services to millions of Americans every day in a broad range of settings including healthcare facilities, schools, child welfare, community agencies, correctional institutions, and private practice.

Continue COVID-19 Recovery

NASW looks to the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to galvanize the country around fighting the country's most devastating public health crisis since 1918, and its many impacts. The rapid deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines is crucial in our recovery, and the relief packages to date continue to be instrumental in mitigating the devastation. But more action is needed to save lives and livelihoods.

Improve Access to Mental and Behavioral Health and Social Care Services

Mental and behavioral health are crucial components of overall health. Social workers play a crucial role in promoting mental and behavioral health and do so in a broad range of settings and communities and with a wide array of populations. 

Provide High-Quality Healthcare for All

NASW supports the enactment of a national health care policy that ensures access to a full, coordinated continuum of physical, mental health and social care services for all people. A single-payer system that ensures universal access to these services is the best means to achieve this goal, and the Affordable Care Act moves the nation in the right direction. 

Build Healthy Relationships To End Violence

Interpersonal violence has a traumatizing impact across the lifespan on individuals, families, communities, and society. Developing and broadly implementing interventions to promote healthy relationships and reduce violence should be a high priority for policy action.

Advance Long and Productive Lives

By working together, the social work profession, NASW, and the federal government can create a society in which older adults and people of all ages thrive.

Eradicate Social Isolation

Social isolation is a silent killer—as dangerous to health as smoking. Our challenge is to educate the public on this dual health hazard, support health and human service professionals in addressing loneliness and social isolation and promote policies that deepen social connections and community for people of all ages.

End Homelessness

Our nation may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history. In the absence of robust and swift intervention, an estimated 30 to 40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction in the next several months.

Create Social Responses to Climate Change

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human health, mental health and societal well-being that the world has ever faced. The health and mental health impacts of climate change and climate pollution also damage our economy. The toll on our health and economy continues to rise as we delay action.

Harness Technology for Social Good

New technologies can be deployed in order to more strategically target social spending, speed up the development of effective programs and interventions and bring a wider array of help to more individuals and communities.

Eliminate Racism

Corrective action is essential to abate long standing inequities associated with systemic discriminatory practices. Our leaders (with support of the general public) must transform their understanding of the system of oppression and the factors that keep it in place and take actions that make our society more equitable and inclusive for all people.

Build Financial Capability for All

We can reduce economic hardship and the debilitating effects of poverty by adopting policies that bolster lifelong income generation and safe retirement accounts; expand workforce training and re-training; and provide financial education and access to high quality and efficient financial services.

Reduce Extreme Economic Inequality

A persistent cycle of economic insecurity has ensnared working Americans for decades as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life and the economic risk inherent in our economy. NASW calls on national leaders to implement a multifaceted approach to tackling poverty and creating economic stability.

Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice

Addressing racial and social injustices, deconstructing stereotypes, dismantling inequality, exposing unfair practices and accepting the super diversity of the population will advance this challenge. All of these actions are critical to fostering a successful society.

Advance Political Justice

The current lower federal court judges are young, highly ideological and do not reflect the modern United States.

Reform Immigration Policy

Nearly 1,000 policies attacking immigrants were issued by the prior administration. These xenophobic policies are antithetical to the principles of our Constitution and must be rescinded.

Protect and Provide for Maltreated Children

It is essential that children who experience trauma as a result of child abuse, neglect, and other acts of violence receive proper support and services.

Serve America's Veterans and Their Families

A once declining veteran population is now increasing again and is in additional need of mental health treatment to address issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, substance use disorder, domestic violence, and suicide.

Advance LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ people do not have full civil and statutory protection under the law as defined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination remains a widespread threat to LGBTQ people’s well-being, health and economic security.

Promote the Rights of People With Disabilities

Although there has been tremendous progress over the past few decades to address issues of disability rights violations, due in large part to enactment of the ADA, this community still experiences barriers, discrimination, and a lack of access to the full benefits of society.