Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide around-the-clock care to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are professionals who are highly trained in a wide variety of critical areas that include administering medications, giving first aid and CPR, de-escalating dangerous situations, behavioral intervention, and providing for the safety of those they support.
Despite the high demands of this job, these dedicated staff do not earn a living wage. Direct Support Professionals make between $10 and $13 per hour. The living wage in New York State is $15.44.
What is a living wage?
Families and individuals working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to meet minimum standards given the local cost of living.
What do DSPs do?
DSPs assist people with basic needs and daily living. Meal preparation, grooming, and bathroom needs. They assist with tube feeding, diabetic care, and oxygen administration. DSPs provide transportation, and teach money management and social skills. They form close personal relationships with the people they support, their families, and healthcare providers. They complete massive amounts of paperwork communicating complex information via daily logs & progress reports.
To compensate for their low wages, DSPs often work hours of overtime just to be able to pay their bills and take care of their families. On top of that, most DSPs work two or three jobs.
People who work as Direct Support Professionals do so largely because of their compassion. They often say that they get more than they give, despite the low wages. What they get is the satisfaction in knowing that another person relies on them. They are responsible for another human life.
However, many Direct Support Professionals leave the field because this occupation is not a financially viable solution. They find themselves in the unenviable position of having to choose between the job they love and the financial needs of their own families.
Five surprising statistics
1. What we pay Direct Support Professionals is than what people make at fast-food restaurants and big-box stores. It is below the federal poverty level for a family of four.
2. Nearly 75% are women, many of whom are single mothers, and half are either black or Latino.
3. DSP’s have extensive training and job responsibilities commensurate with those receiving greater pay.
4. Lower pay scale causes higher-than-average retention problems, as well as making recruitment a challenge.
5. In New York State DSPs help over 130,000 people with disabilities. If we cannot pay a living wage, these people will not receive the care they need.
What does the future look like?
There are simply not enough Direct Support Professionals to keep pace with the number of DSPs needed by Americans with I/DD in their families. The growth and aging of the US population, as well as increased life expectancy rates for people with complex health needs found among persons with I/DD, compounds the already dire situation. The demand for DSPs will increase by 48% in just the next decade alone.
Who will support the growing number of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities? This is the question at stake.
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