A Report on DSP Workforce Crisis of the 21st Century

In April 2017, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) published a report on the Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce crisis. The report is called Addressing the Disability Services Workforce Crisis of the 21st Century

The report talks about a major issue in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. There is a lot of turnover for DSPs, meaning that many DSPs leave their jobs. This leaves a lot of vacancies. It also really difficult to recruit people to work as a DSP.

ANCOR says that these issues are a “public health crisis.” If we do not have enough qualified staff, then we cannot provide quality support to people with disabilities.

Reasons for DSP Workforce Crisis

ANCOR mentions many reasons for why DSPs leave their jobs and why it is difficult to hire more DSPs. Some of these reasons are:

  • lack of useful data about the DSP workforce
  • wages that are too low to make a good living
  • not enough benefits (e.g. healthcare, retirement, etc.)
  • little appreciation from employers
  • lack of public awareness
  • lack of opportunities to advance in their careers
  • not enough access to important technology
  • changes in the working population

Suggestions and Solutions

ANCOR notes that society knows very little about the work of DSPs. DSPs are often invisible. Therefore, we need to raise awareness. ANCOR suggests we create video campaigns to educate the public, promote DSP Recognition Week, and give awards to outstanding DSPs. We should also spread more information about DSP wages and turnover rates. Lastly, ANCOR says that DSPs should build trust and support for their work by demonstrating the core competencies.

The DSP workforce is made up of mostly working-age women. There are not enough working-age women to meet the demands of the job market. Therefore, we need to expand the workforce to include men, youth, older workers, etc. We should also invest more in natural and community supports. ANCOR also suggests providing people with educational incentives, such as tuition, college credits, student loan forgiveness, certifications, and diplomas. This will help to attract, train, and retain qualified DSPs.

According to ANCOR, DSPs also leave their jobs because there is little room for growth. There should be more opportunities for professional growth and income raises. Another major concern is technology. Administrators should incorporate more technology to help DSPs with completing paperwork, scheduling shifts, and providing support. Technology can help reduce some of the physical burden that DSPs experience. More funding and training are needed to better incorporate technology.

Steps Taken to Address DSP Workforce Crisis in NYS

The intellectual and developmental disabilities field has already taken many steps to help lessen the DSP workforce crisis. Recently, New York State Governor Cuomo committed $55 million dollars to increase wages for DSPs. This addresses the low wage issue. Also, New York State is participating in a national survey that will collect data on DSP wages, vacancies, and turnover rates. In addition, the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation has 7 regional leads who provide education across the state on the core competencies and other initiatives. The New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA) has designed a credentialing program called GEAR UP. In the GEAR UP model, DSPs are given increased wages every time they achieve a milestone or pass an assessment. The Training Collaborative for Innovative Leadership also has their own credentialing program to develop the skills of frontline supervisors.

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