People Experiencing Disability Paying the Price for Systemic Underfunding

About SARC and the Disability Service Sector

SARC is an association of 100+ Member Agencies; over 75 of them provide essential daily services to thousands of people experiencing disability in Saskatchewan. Employees working in the Disability Service sector support individuals to live at home, thrive at work, and be engaged citizens in their community.

The Issues

Skilled employees are leaving because they feel devalued in terms of pay, benefits, and general recognition of the risks associated with their positions and for the level of skill required for the work they do. The 2021 provincial average for staff turnover in the Disability Service sector was 29% for all staff and 32% for Direct Support Professionals. This is a significant increase from 2020 when the staff turnover rate was 21% overall and 23% for Direct Support Professionals.

SARC has been profiling the risk of rising turnover rates without adequate investments into the sector, and the problems we predicted are here and are getting worse.

Organizations that operate in the Disability Service sector continue to struggle to recruit and retain quality employees, leaving the people supported in the sector at risk.

Employees are leaving to take similar jobs, primarily Continuing Care Assistant positions in the healthcare sector, that pay better base wages, offer shift premiums, and provide more robust benefits.

A Direct Support Professional is a Skilled Position Delivering Essential Services

People experiencing disability who rely on Direct Support Professionals for personal care, independent living supports, and community inclusion opportunities are being subjected to a revolving door of support staff – it’s disrespectful and dangerous. 

The Direct Support Professional position is very unique, drawing skills from multiple other professions in order to support people experiencing disability to lead healthy, safe, and fulfilling lives in their community.

Direct Support Professionals are the first response of physical and mental health services in both routine and crisis situations. This requires them to administer and document medications; perform specialized medical procedures; navigate the healthcare system; advocate for and connect their clients to basic medical, specialist, and therapeutic appointments; and be the first responder in emergency situations.

Employees require skills to identify triggers and solutions when supporting people who display challenging and potentially harmful or dangerous behaviours.

Direct Support Professionals support people through all aspects of their lives, including challenges faced with mental health, addictions, and interactions with the justice system (and these issues are on an upward trend in the sector). They are supporters and advocates who must and will always be there for the individual.

Employees often work alone, which poses additional risks and requires sound judgment.

Direct Support Professionals’ work is physically strenuous. It often involves lifting and moving people in the performance of daily activities, such as bathing and assisting with mobility.

Employees must be proficient in multiple forms of communication and documentation skills, as they are required to understand and convey complex medical information, skill development, goal progress, and behavioural analysis; they deal with a large burden of paperwork, essential to regulatory compliance.

Direct Support Professionals need to be highly adaptable in order to support each individual’s unique needs and choices; it is an enormous responsibility to play a supporting role for people as they make very personal and sometimes complex decisions about their own lives.

What Is Being Done in Other Sectors

The Government of Saskatchewan has put numerous strategies into place over the last few months to support recruitment and retention challenges in the Health and Early Learning sectors. Despite several years of advocating for meaningful initiatives and investments to improve recruitment and retention in the Disability Service sector, we are still waiting.

What We are Asking For

SARC and SARC Members in the Disability Service sector asking the provincial government for:

✓ Wage parity between the Direct Support Professional position in the Disability Service sector and the Continuing Care Assistant position in the Health sector

✓ A comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy for the Disability Service sector

Get Involved

If you would like to learn more, please contact

If you would like to support this initiative, please write a letter or send an email to the Minister of Social Services and your MLA


Please Note: The included information is for reference only, and SARC and its Members, their employers, officers, and Directors assume and accept no liability for any consequences arising from the use, non-use, accuracy, or legal compliance of any of the information, tools, or resources provided.

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