March is Social Work Month! Social Work Month was first introduced by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in 1963, when they ran television ads to gather support and interest in the social work profession. This campaign initially generated over 35,000 letters of support (National Today, 2023). Social Work Month was then signed into law by Ronald Reagan in 1984 (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2020). Each year, NASW declares a theme for Social Work Month to generate awareness about a specific social work topic, and for 2024 they have declared the theme ‘Empowering Social Workers’.

Social workers do essential work in our communities and beyond, working to improve the wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. They also fight against systems of oppression and work to build up systems that promote justice and equity. With a growing number of unhoused individuals, the mental health crisis, and the growing opioid epidemic, NASW reports that we need more social workers now more than ever, and “social workers are uniquely qualified to handle these societal troubles” (NASW, 2024). In fact, by 2030, the social work profession will grow 12% from 2020 (NASW, n.d.).

NASW reports that one key tenet of empowering social workers is to provide them with “better compensation for the important work they do” (NASW, 2024). NASW notes that the path to becoming a social worker is not an easy one, and often an expensive one, but the average pay does not reflect this. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), the national median pay for social workers was $55,350 and the median pay in Minnesota was $67,960.

So, how can we help empower social workers? A video posted on YouTube from NASW titled “Social Work Month 2024: Empowering Social Workers” gives us a few different ways. First, we can support legislation such as social worker safety legislation and the improvement of access to mental health care act. We can also support legislation that promotes student loan debt relief. Additionally, we can “urge schools and other agencies to hire more social workers” (NASW, 2024). Another way that we can help empower social workers is to work to reduce the stigma around the work.

Social workers are essential to our communities and the larger society, as they work to tackle some of the most urgent societal issues. It is important to empower social workers to continue to do the work that they do and to grow the profession. Please visit the National Association of Social Workers website (https://www.socialworkers.org/) to learn more about the social work profession!

 

References

Social work theme and rationale 2024. NASW, National Association of Social Workers. (2024). https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Social-Work-Month/Theme-and-Rationale-2024

Social work month. National Today. (2023, November 14). https://nationaltoday.com/social-work-month/#history

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 6). Social Workers: Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm

Va.gov: Veterans Affairs. National Social Work Program. (2020, June 22). https://www.socialwork.va.gov/Social_Work_Month.asp#:~:text=The%20White%20House%20officially%20recognized,workers%2C%20and%20celebrates%20their%20contributions.

YouTube. (2024, January 12). Social work month 2024: Empowering social workers. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9ShvNh3Qkc

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