Manitoba

Support workers for adults with intellectual disabilities underpaid, report warns

Support workers who work with adults with intellectual disabilities are underpaid and are more likely to quit as a result, according to a group that is urging the Manitoba government to fix the problem soon.
Support workers who work with adults with intellectual disabilities are underpaid and are more likely to quit as a result, according to a group that is urging the Manitoba government to fix the problem soon. 1:42

Support workers who work with adults with intellectual disabilities are underpaid and are more likely to quit as a result, according to a group that is urging the Manitoba government to fix the problem.

A report by Abilities Manitoba is urging the province to do something now to ensure disability support agencies can be sustained in the long term.

According to the group, support staff in community settings — those who provide personal and medical care, nutrition, recreation and related services — make an average of just $12.06 an hour.

"People can make just as much money or more money going to work at Starbucks or at McDonald's or at a gas station," Abilities Manitoba president Malinda Roberts told CBC News on Wednesday.

Abilities Manitoba president Malinda Roberts says support care workers in the province can make as much money, or even more, working at a Starbucks of McDonald's. (CBC)
Ed Barkman's 25-year-old son, Matt, graduated from high school and works part-time at a grocery store, but his intellectual disabilities mean he'll never be able to live alone.

As a result, the bond Matt forms with his support worker is critical, his father said.

Barkman said while all the support workers who have worked with Matt have been great and professional, a chronic staff turnover means his son has constantly had to re-form bonds as new people come on board.

"Oh, many times, a dozen times," Barkman said.

In July, employees with Community Living Selkirk — members of Canadian Union of Public Employees — voted in favour of a strike.

But just before the deadline, the provincial government promised $6 million over three years to bring wages up to between $13 and $14 an hour by 2017.

Roberts said that "is not soon enough to resolve the crisis and the impact, the negative impact, that it's having."

In a statement emailed to CBC News, a spokesperson for Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said the department will review Abilities Manitoba's report, "which will help guide us as we continue to work closely with agencies to improve services for adults with intellectual disabilities while also improving wages and training for workers.

"We recently committed $6 million over three years to support a wage increase for staff in residential service agencies. This funding will help to retain and recruit support workers for persons with disabilities," the spokesperson added.

In the meantime, Ed Barkman said he will continue to watch Matt bond with one new support worker after another.

"It's painful for us, it's painful for Matt," he said. "That is probably the nature of his future." 

Read the report

Read the full report by Abilities Manitoba below.

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