Provide Fair Wages and Standardized Training for Direct Support Professionals Now!

Provide Fair Wages and Standardized Training for Direct Support Professionals Now!

February 8, 2023
Signatures: 1,530Next Goal: 2,500
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Why this petition matters

Started by The Coalition

Manitobans labelled with intellectual disability who rely on our support to live their lives, along with their families, staff, and organizations, are sounding the alarm and pleading for help. Decades of inadequate funding have culminated into a crisis like we’ve never seen before. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are paying the price and the impacts are devastating. We are calling on you, to hear the plea of Manitobans who are struggling and terrified.  

What is needed?

The Manitoba government needs to fund Direct Support Professional wages to start at 60% above minimum wage, in conjunction with the implementation of comprehensive training standards. 

What can you do? 




Despite herculean efforts by non-profits to recruit and retain direct support professionals, supports for vulnerable people are at increasing risk on a daily basis as a result of instability in our workforce. We’ve called on our MLAs, we’ve called on our Premier, and we’ve called on the Minister responsible to help us stabilize our workforce and ensure that the most vulnerable people in our province are safe. Despite these efforts, we have received no indication that help is on the way. If meaningful changes to wages are not realized now, we will become a minimum wage sector.

Supporting people to live their best life is not minimum wage work. The skill set required is complex and diverse. Services are fragile and stretched to breaking. If the Manitoba government continues to ignore this issue, there are certain to be devastating front page headlines. The consequences for vulnerable people and the families we collectively support are unfathomable. 
The Province of Manitoba has made some investments to the Community Living sector in recent years. These initiatives bring awareness to the sector, however, none of them address the current funding crisis. The increase to minimum wage has wiped out the impact of investments and has put us further behind than ever. Coupled with a massive staffing shortage, we are in DESPERATE TROUBLE.  
Government Initiative #1: In the spring of 2022, the Province provided organizations with $2.5 million through the Labour Force Support Grant.  
ACTUAL IMPACT: Although appreciated, this one-time investment translated to minimal dollars per employee and does not address the ongoing recruitment and cost of living issues faced by direct support professionals. We need a permanent investment in wages to bring support professionals up from minimum wage to compensation comparable to other human service sectors (i.e.: child care, health, home care, etc.) 
Government Initiative #2: Budget 2022 included $10 million in new funding to increase the funded hourly wage rate for organizations that deliver shift-staffed residential services to $15.11 and $16.11 for direct support professionals and supervisors, respectively.  
ACTUAL IMPACT: 4 months later, the government announced the increase of minimum wage to $15 per hour by October 2023. This is not minimum wage work. Skills and competencies required are complex. Wage scales in organizations are non-existent with the minimum wage increase. 
Government Initiative #3: Since April 1, 2022, organizations delivering day services have been receiving a 2.7 per cent increase to their monthly invoices to support recruitment and retention.  
ACTUAL IMPACT: Direct support professionals working in day services have historically been paid less than those is residential services – even with this increase, their wages are generally lower and have led to day services staff moving to work in shift-staffed homes and the closure of several day services. Hourly staff wages are funded by the province at $12.15 or $15.11, leaving the employer to make up the difference to pay for things like annual increases, benefit plans, replacement costs and overtime. The expectations of the positions far exceed $12.15 and $15.11.  
Government Initiative #4: In April 2022, the department of Families, in partnership with the Department of Economic Development, Investment and Trade and the federal government of Canada, provided $370 thousand to Abilities Manitoba to co-ordinate a Direct Support Professional awareness and recruitment campaign, and to deliver essential training for sector employees.  
ACTUAL IMPACT: This initiative has allowed us to develop a fantastic campaign. However, applicants have responded that they cannot work for the extremely low wages. The reality is that direct support work is high in responsibility and there are many, many minimum wage jobs available that are easier and would not carry the level of responsibility and or the potential for being mandated to work or work overtime. 
For decades, the disability sector has fallen behind other services in staff training and wages, while support needs have grown and become more complex.  
What Does a Direct Support Professional Do? 
Currently, direct support professionals (DSPs) are responsible for day-to-day support that in many cases, if done incorrectly, would be life-threatening for the people we serve. Employees do this work and take on this level of responsibility and risk for just over minimum wage. DSPs complete various complex activities in addition to supporting people to connect with meaningful work, to develop and nurture relationships and friendships, and to assist with developing various skills based on personal interest. DSPs routinely administer medication, use lifts and transfers to safely help people navigate their home and community, manage specialized diets with varied texture needs and/or tube feeding. Often, DSPs are also trained by other health professionals to complete physical therapy routines, attend to respiratory care that can include inhalation treatments, suction or oxygen, and monitor diabetes and a number of other health conditions.  
Direct support professionals are with people through the most intimate moments of their lives, and they assist people to manage mental health struggles and the highs and lows of life. We know they assist people to make difficult decisions about their health and their bodies, and some have been the key support person when a person’s life comes to an end in hospital or at home. It is an integral part of the Direct Support role to be an advocate with people in these complex areas of their lives and can take an emotional toll. It’s an essential role and should be valued as such. 
Disability Support Service Organizations Are Hemorrhaging Staff: 
Despite the challenges they face, employees choose this work because it is meaningful and fulfilling, and they value people with disabilities, thrive on supporting individuals to meet their goals, and enjoy interesting and variable work that takes them all over the community. But employees also need to pay their bills, feed themselves, and have enough income to live. It is understood amongst all funders and organizations that staff must work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. Currently, there are not many jobs within any sector that pay less than a DSP, and there are NO jobs in the human service sector that pay less. Childcare, youth care, homecare aides, healthcare aides, educational assistants, etc… all of those jobs require similar skill sets and tend to attract the same personnel but pay between $5-$7/hour more to new employees. Why don’t we value people with intellectual disabilities in the same way? We simply cannot compete with the higher wages offered in these other jobs, and our DSPs are understandably leaving us as a result.  
Impact Of Low Wages on Manitobans, Families, and Businesses: 
The lower wages that direct support professionals are funded at means that they simply cannot afford groceries or to support themselves. The current provincially funded wage is not sustainable and can be experienced as exploitative. We recognize that everyone is struggling for DSPs right now. For our organizations, struggling for DSPs is an understatement. In the context of a historically tight labour market, organizations have had no choice but to close some community services, including Residential Homes and Day Services – services DESPERATELY needed by people and their families. DSPs are being mandated to work overtime, they are over-worked and exhausted and are falling asleep on shifts. Brand-new DSPs are being asked to do skilled and critical work with very little orientation or training. Risk and negative impacts of this persistent under-funding of wages are massive, and we have not escaped the consequences. People deserve better. 
The reality is that Incident Reports are up by 50% over last year, Critical Incidents have risen and—tragically—some vulnerable people have died. For more than twenty years, we have been advocating for direct support wages to keep up with inflation, the cost of living, and the Consumer Price Index. The first meaningful increase in 20 years was announced last year – but it was immediately followed by an overall increase to the provincial minimum wage, and with further minimum wage increases pending, we will have lost ground AGAIN. People deserve better. 
If the direct support professional position becomes a minimum wage job, people we serve will be at significant risk of not receiving even the most basic support. People who can manage working for other minimum wage employers have a variety of options, and they are choosing jobs with less responsibility and more stability. People who want meaningful work and a career supporting people can’t make ends meet in our sector and quickly move on to other helping jobs. Pre-pandemic data collected from agency exit interviews tell us that people who love the work are leaving this sector because of the low pay. Now, we can’t even attract potential candidates as the prospective employees won’t accept our offers of employment.  
The bottom line is that we can’t support people without employees, and every day we are losing more people. We have been working diligently with government to advocate for change. Wages and training have been key issues in the last two Disability Matters Vote campaigns. Our approach to this point has been to work with government, to come to the table in good faith and explain our position. But turnover and short-term staff have been an organizational risk for decades, jeopardizing quality and costing the entire system more for resulting crises, recruitment, and orientation. 
The system was neglected too long, and we have surpassed the tipping point. We have reached the limits of advocacy within the system. We are begging our government to prioritize disability support wages now, and to make a concerted plan with a timeline to implement standardized training. People’s lives are too valuable, and the work too important, to neglect any longer. People with disabilities need and deserve employees who are committed to this career, well-trained, confident, and capable of building long-term relationships that improve their overall well-being.  


This campaign is supported by The Coalition: 
Abilities Manitoba 
The Alliance of Direct Support Professionals of Manitoba 
Community Living Manitoba 
The Family Advocacy Network of Manitoba 
People First of Manitoba 

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Signatures: 1,530Next Goal: 2,500
Support now