Why Social Work is Essential

This year’s theme for National Social Work Month is “Social Workers are Essential”. Did you know that social work extends far beyond the Department of Social Services? With over 700,000 active social workers in the US, this industry is essential for many communities’ function and survival.
 

National Social Work Month 

Today marks the last day of National Social Work Month. For all of March, organizations and communities put emphasis on the important work that social workers do every day. 

The 2021 theme for Social Work Month is “Social Workers Are Essential”. With over 700,000 active social workers in the US, this industry helps millions of people each year. Eccovia is proud to support the social work industry and aid in efforts to improve communities. 

Essential Services of Social Work 

When people hear the term “social worker”, chances are they think of the Department of Social Services (DSS) or Child Welfare Services. While these organizations do valuable work, they only represent a small fraction of social workers. Social work extends far beyond these government organizations. 

For instance, social workers may operate in a hospital, where they coordinate primary care for underserved individuals. Others may work as school counselors for teens, helping them access resources for tutoring or college admissions. The opportunity—and need—for social work is vast. Some of the areas that social workers operate in include: 

  • Homelessness 
    Social workers are often the ones operating shelters for people experiencing homelessness. They help coordinate meals, beds, and donations. Often, their work involves fundraising in the community and advocating for those experiencing homelessness in city councils and legislatures. 
     
  • Mental and Behavioral Health 
    Research shows that trained social workers are often the best first responders to mental health crises. They are prepared to work with individuals suffering from a range of mental health issues as well as the often-accompanying substance abuse disorders. Sometimes, social workers may operate solely out of rehabilitation centers or clinics. 
     
  • Food Insecurity 
    Hunger is one of the biggest health crises in the US, and social workers are actively responding to it. They run food banks, food drives, and meal delivery programs. These social workers often work in conjunction with other organizations—such as homeless shelters and public schools—to ensure people get the nutrition they need
     
  • Healthcare 
    Some social workers spend their entire careers in hospitals and physician offices. This is because many people—particularly the disadvantaged—need help navigating the complex world of healthcare. Social workers help people receive the right medications, set up return appointments, and deal with devastating news. Social workers are often the only link between a person and the care that they need.  
  • Clinical Social Work 
    This category may be what most people are familiar with. Clinical social work often involves working at governmental agencies like Child Welfare Services or the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, it also includes private practices. Many social workers decide to become counselors or therapists, providing mental therapy to any range of clients. 
     
  • LGBTQ+ Community 
    As an under protected and over targeted group, the LGBTQ+ community often needs social workers trained to respond specifically to their intersectional issues. LGBTQ+ individuals face higher rates of homelessness, HIV diagnoses, domestic abuse, and workplace discrimination. Check out how one LGBTQ+ organization, JASMYN, uses social work to serve those in their community.  
     
  • School Social Work 
    Public schools often need full-time social workers aiding them. This is particularly important for lower-income facilities. Social workers in schools may function as guidance counselors, classroom supports, group therapists, mental health responders, and teacher consultants (just to name a few). They often work with students who are also experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.  
     
  • Refugee Resettlement 
    When refugees enter the US, they need help getting housing, employment, and assimilating into their communities. They also often deal with mental health challenges that accompany fleeing a dangerous place and uprooting their lives. Social workers have the skills necessary to coordinate these resources and offer support. 
     

These are just a few of the many potential areas a social worker might be needed. Together, they represent a rich tapestry of individuals working tirelessly to help those most in need. Each category symbolizes a group of people who are often left behind. Social work is essential in that it fights for these very people. Without social workers, those already at a disadvantage would have no alternative to get help. 

Social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the US. 
It is expected to grow up to 11% by 2028. 


Coronavirus and Social Work 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the US in early 2020, industries and workers were labelled as “essential” or “non-essential”. This meant that only those who were deemed crucial and necessary were allowed to continue their work. 

Unfortunately, most social workers were not initially categorized as essential and as such did not receive the needed benefits of essential services. However, individuals and communities remained reliant on social services for their survival. People experiencing homelessness continued to need shelter; those without access to food and nutrition continued to go hungry; individuals with mental health concerns continued to need the support of their social workers to deal with crises. 

In short, social work was—and is—essential. 

Despite the challenges that social workers have faced during the pandemic, they continue to show resilience and adaptability. These are two characteristics that have long hallmarked this profession. 

“The pandemic has forced us to be nimble, to make some adjustments to the way that we have traditionally done work,” says Melissa Haley, president of the National Association of Black Social Workers. “How do we engage people? How do we meet them where they are when we’re physically not in the same place?” 

Essential Work Continues On 

One thing is for certain: nothing will stop the essential efforts of social workers, not even a pandemic. As more people become aware of just how vast the industry of social work is, the better we can serve the communities that need social work to survive. 

Eccovia has worked with social workers across the industry for more than 30 years. Our case management platform ClientTrack™ is used by organizations and non-profits across the nation. We focus on helping social workers do what they do best: help people. By easing the process of case management, data analytics, and reporting, ClientTrack saves time and improves efficiency. If your organization is ready to improve your case management system, feel free to reach out for a demo today. 

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Sources Used

  1. https://naswcanews.org/social-workers-are-essential-social-work-month-2021/ 
  1. https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Social-Work-Month#:~:text=Social%20Workers%20Are%20Essential,is%20Social%20Workers%20Are%20Essential 
  1. https://www.naswnc.org/page/287 
  1. https://www.webmd.com/coronavirus-in-context/video/melissa-smith-haley 
  1. https://www.crookstontimes.com/story/news/healthcare/2021/03/29/social-work-month-theme-social-workers-essential/7049515002/  
  1. https://www.thewashingtondailynews.com/2021/03/19/health-beat-what-to-know-about-social-work/  
  1. https://www.waldenu.edu/online-masters-programs/master-of-social-work/resource/seven-reasons-social-workers-are-essential  
  1. https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Facts  

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