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Our Top 5 Takeaways from ANCOR’s 2023 DSP Workforce Survey

The survey highlights the persistent DSP staffing shortage and the industry's efforts to adapt.

For the past four years, ANCOR has released a State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis report which measures the impact of the DSP crisis on community-based providers supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). 

 

The 2023 edition, which was published in 2024 based on survey responses from 581 I/DD agencies across 45 states and the District of Columbia, paints a picture of the ongoing struggles providers are facing and illustrates how the industry is adapting to these challenges year over year.  

 

While we highly recommend reading the full report yourself, we’ve identified a handful of insights that we believe are significant for service providers.  

 

Below are five key takeaways drawn from ANCOR’s survey, along with our own thoughts and reflections on the issues uncovered by this report.  

1. Staffing shortages persist.

According to the ANCOR report, a staggering 95% of respondents are experiencing moderate to severe staffing shortages. At the same time, the demand for home-based care services is expected to grow by 35% in the next decade.  

 

While this mismatch between projected demand and workforce availability undoubtedly poses significant challenges for disability service providers, there is a silver lining: ongoing staffing shortages are driving innovation within the industry.  

 

In the absence of sufficient manpower, providers are more motivated than ever to explore new technologies, processes, and models of care. Things like: 

 

 

These and other innovative approaches will help providers meet the evolving demands of the industry, ensuring that quality care remains accessible despite staffing shortages.  

2. Prioritizing employee retention and career growth will be critical for success.

With staff at a premium, the providers that come out on top will be the ones that prioritize retaining and supporting their existing employees.  

 

In fact, one of the key recommendations to come out of the ANCOR report was the importance of building a career pipeline for DSPs. Two proposed pieces of legislation — the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act (S. 1298) and the Direct CARE Opportunity Act (H.R. 4720) — would advance this goal by establishing a career pipeline for DSPs and offering new opportunities for training and professional growth.  

 

Whether or not this legislation is enacted, providers should consider increasing their investment in training programs, mentorship initiatives, and support networks for DSPs. These initiatives foster a supportive work environment and empower employees to grow professionally, ultimately enhancing job satisfaction and contributing to a positive workplace culture.  

3. Providers have gotten better at managing staffing shortages.

Over three quarters of providers reported turning away new referrals due to staffing shortages, and nearly half reported discontinuing programs or service offerings due to insufficient staffing. 

 

However, ANCOR notes that this is a “significant improvement” over the previous year. This indicates that while staffing shortages haven’t eased up, providers have found ways to reduce the need to cancel programs or services.  

 

Indeed, we’re seeing more providers seeking out opportunities to streamline their operations and eliminate inefficiencies. For example, many are turning to software solutions to streamline administrative tasks and optimize billable hours 

 

This shift towards efficiency could result in leaner, more agile organizations that are better equipped to respond to the evolving needs of their clients and adapt to future challenges. 

4. Providers are facing tough decisions.

As ANCOR notes, “limited staffing resources have forced providers to make tough decisions, impacting access to vital services for individuals in need.” 

 

When it comes to making these decisions, data will be key. Instead of going off guesswork or gut feeling, providers can (and should) leverage their data to identify trends, anticipate client needs, and optimize service delivery strategies.  

 

By analyzing client outcomes, staff performance, and resource utilization patterns, agencies can make informed decisions to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. 

 

This may involve adjusting staffing schedules, reallocating resources to high-demand areas, and determining whether to expand or cut programs based on available resources and client needs.  

5. Collaboration between providers is crucial.

According to ANCOR, over half of providers operate in areas with few or no other providers. “Limited provider options in underserved areas highlight the need for collaborative solutions to address gaps in service delivery,” the report emphasizes. 

 

In light of these challenges, collaboration and partnership among service providers becomes crucial. Through collaboration, providers can share best practices, resources, and strategies to overcome staffing constraints and ensure that individuals in underserved areas receive the support they need. This could range from hosting shared recruitment events to forming staffing pools and engaging in joint advocacy efforts to influence policy and funding decisions. 

Final thoughts

ANCOR’s 2023 DSP Workforce survey underscores the pressing need for innovative solutions to address the ongoing challenges faced by disability service providers. As staffing shortages persist and demand for services continues to grow, prioritizing employee retention, leveraging data-driven decision-making, and fostering collaboration among providers are essential strategies for navigating these complex realities. 

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