Staffing challenges, inadequate wage increases, burnout and depression formed COVID-19’s legacy among the professionals who support people with disabilities in their daily lives, a new report from the Institute on Community Integration shows.
Direct support professionals (DSPs) worked more overtime hours and took on new duties during the pandemic as many of their colleagues were unable to work. Their average hourly wages grew 13 percent, to $16.58, during the April 2020 to July 2022 period, but it wasn’t enough to adequately cover living costs. By 2022, about two-thirds were working additional weekly hours due to the pandemic.
“Asking these professionals to continually add work hours and new responsibilities exacerbates burnout and accelerates the retention challenges that service providers have been battling for many years,” said Sandra Pettingell, an ICI research associate and lead author of the November report, Direct Support Workforce and COVID-19: What Happened Over 24 Months?
The report is a summary of four online national surveys ICI administered with several partners, including the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, ANCOR, The Arc, and NASDDDS. Nearly 9,000 DSPs and frontline supervisors (FLS) completed the first survey, the largest survey to date of this workforce. In total, roughly 25,000 surveys were completed.
At the 24-month mark:
- Nearly half (47 percent) of DSPs had not received COVID-19 augmentation pay or a bonus.
- 52 percent had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- 16 percent of the DSP workforce had been vaccinated.
“In Covid’s early days, we knew that direct support professionals were, once again, about to be immersed in crisis. It was critical to understand how their work, their health, their mental health, and their home lives would be affected,” said Joseph Macbeth, chief executive officer and president of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. “The NADSP team worked closely with ICI to get the word out to tens of thousands of DSPs through our robust social media forums and our connections within the provider community. It would have been a colossal failure for our field if we did not capture and publish the impact that the virus had on our workforce.”
We’ll be presenting for information from the report in our December issue.
Read more about the latest Covid report at https://publications.ici.umn.edu/community-living/covid19-what-happened-over-24-months/main?j=12264732&sfmc_sub=80842530&l=40736_HTML&u=252076343&mid=6379454&jb=0.