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posted: 5/29/2013 5:00 AM

Support workers deserve pay raise

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The Illinois Legislature will be voting on the 2014 budget by Friday in Springfield. This includes the Illinois Human Services budget.

This agency funds community based organizations that provide residential care for individuals with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the state. Recently community based organizations have dealt with significant reductions in funding, resulting in reduced services to clients, elimination of important and effective programs and lost benefits.

A key component of community-based organizations is the direct support of workers who provide the hands-on assistance to residents. Their responsibilities and duties are very broad-based to include: cooking and feeding, bathing and dental hygiene, dressing, washing clothing, cleaning, grocery shopping, transporting residents, first aid, dealing with emergency situations, dispensing medications record keeping and ensuring a safe environment for clients.

These duties are performed in a difficult environment due to emotional, psychological, behavioral and medical conditions of residents. Direct-service providers have not received pay increases for years, and their pay is not commensurate with their responsibilities and duties. The average pay is below the poverty level for a family of four.

Due to low pay, employee turnover has increased, affecting the quality of life for the clients they support. It also affects community-based organizations as they absorb the additional cost of hiring and training replacements.

The Care Campaign is a unique collaboration of community-based agencies, families, caregivers, and their unions to raise wages of direct-support workers. We encourage you to call your Illinois legislators before May 31 and ask them to vote in favor of the 2014 funding of the Humans Services budget to provide direct-support workers long overdue salary increases.

Marita Stricklin


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