A recently released report says the well-being of people with intellectual disabilities could be put at risk if the provincial government doesn’t do more to address the issue of low wages paid to direct service workers.
The report was released Sept. 25 by Abilities Manitoba, a network of agencies which provide services to people with intellectual disabilities. It followed a series of stakeholders meetings held throughout the province this spring to gather the opinions of people who receive support, community members and agency representatives on what changes or improvements are required in the community living sector.
Malinda Roberts, president of Abilities Manitoba, says the need to improve the wages paid to direct service workers was a recurring theme during the stakeholder meetings. She says the average for direct service workers is currently $12.06 an hour.
“I think the overwhelming message in the report that we heard from people was that we need to address human resources issues in our sector, which is primarily the low wages that are being paid to direct support workers,” Roberts says. “The low wages create retention issues, high turnover rates and difficulties recruiting so the quality of services is impacted in a negative way.
“It wasn’t a surprise. [But] the resounding nature of it was impressive. It really confirmed what we already knew.”
The report highlights four other key areas which require immediate action including:
- The implementation of standardized, mandatory training for all direct service workers
- Improved government resources and coordination of services
- Development and implementation of new quality assurance measures
- The removal of barriers which limit people from fully participating in society
Roberts says she hopes the report will convince the province to act quickly to ensure the long-term sustainability of services that so many people depend upon.
“We’re hopeful the minister will commit to an action plan that addresses the key issues that were identified by the people we spoke to,” she says. “From our perspective an action plan needs to have identified outcomes and deliverables and timelines attached to it.
“Most importantly, it needs to be adequately resourced. That’s what happens all the time in this sector. We create plans and we know what needs to be done but they’re not adequately resourced. We strongly believe the lack of adequately resourcing this sector says how much you value people or don’t value people.”