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Playing the Long Game: Improving Federal Data on DSP Workforce

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Playing the Long Game: Improving Federal Data on DSP Workforce

by: 
Doris Parfaite-Claude, Federal Advocacy and Research Manager
Doris Parfaite-Claude, Federal Advocacy and Research Manager

As part of ANCOR’s efforts to engage Congress in proactive policy solutions for IDD providers, ANCOR seeks to improve how the federal government collects wage and occupation information for Direct Service Professionals (DSPs). Specifically, ANCOR wishes to see changes in how the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects DSP data for its Occupational Outlook Handbook. The federal government, states and the private sector rely on the BLS data when planning workforce investments, setting rates in states, creating federal legislation, among other uses. So it is important that the federal government recognizes that DSPs are a profession.

By asking Congress to pressure BLS, you can make BLS prioritize this issue.

Why?

While this sounds boring at first glance, stronger federal data on DSPs will help providers make a more compelling case for higher wages for DSPs during rate negotiations. It can also help with other efforts to improve the workforce – such as demonstrating to states and the federal government that they should be involved in long-term recruitment strategies, or obtaining the support of local Workforce Investment Bureaus. So please bear with us while we walk through the data details in this article – we promise it is worth it!

What is the problem?

Currently, when BLS collects wage and occupation data, it does not accurately capture the DSP workforce. In fact, it combines DSP data with that of Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs). This is problematic because:

  • These positions do not have the same level of responsibility as DSPs;
  • These occupations may have different funding streams and thus not accurately reflect employment costs in the IDD sector;
  • Not tracking DSPs separately contributes to the lack of public awareness and recognition of this workforce.

What is ANCOR doing about it?

ANCOR proposes to resolve this challenge by asking BLS to create a separate Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for DSPs – SOCs are how BLS separates out occupations when creating their official data sets. ANCOR has engaged in initial conversations with BLS, which has expressed some interest in the DSP workforce. However, because of the amount of competing demands placed on BLS, ANCOR believes that this conversation will only be elevated and carried into action with Congressional pressure on BLS.

As such, under the leadership of Sarah Meek, Director of Legislative Affairs, ANCOR has been actively recruiting the support of Members of Congress across the aisle on this issue. We are asking Members of Congress to sign onto a letter to BLS asking them to create a SOC for DSPs. Several offices have expressed content and your advocacy can increase the prominence of this issue!

What Can YOU Do to Promote This Bipartisan Effort?

Ask your Members of Congress to sign onto ANCOR’s letter. The most effective ways to engage with your Congressional offices are:

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  • Inviting your Members of Congress to come visit your agencies when they are back in your states / districts – you can access the Congressional schedule and see in-district periods here. Seeing your services will give them context for understanding the uniqueness of the DSP occupation – and why it needs to be categorized separately from other health occupations.
  • Scheduling a meeting with in-district Congressional staff to request their support for the sign-on letter. Here is an example of a meeting request from ANCOR’s health care reform campaign – it will give you an idea of how to structure your request. Here is a list of in-district schedulers’ emails so you know whom to contact.
  • Calling your Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. and asking to speak to the staffer who handles labor issues. The Congressional switchboard can help you find your Members’ of Congress phone numbers at (202) 224 3121.

Please email Doris Parfaite-Claude, Federal Advocacy and Research Manager at dparfaite-claude@ancor.org for assistance with any of the above efforts, including scripts for phone calls and other such materials. If you have any questions above how this effort is developing in Congress, please contact Sarah Meek at smeek@ancor.org.