IDD Workforce Crisis: National Core Indicators Report by The Numbers

By 2020, the Health and Human Services department estimates the number of individuals with IDD in need of residential in-home and day supports is expected to rise from an estimated 1,015,000 in 2003 to 1,400,000 in 2020, an increase of about 38%.

People with an intellectual disability rely on Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) for assistance in their daily lives and communities. Families rely on DSPs so they may work or receive respite from caregiving. It’s obvious that DSPs are an absolute essential part of the healthcare community! Beyond the rise in those requiring these services, Relias experts have begun to dig in and better understand the challenges leading to this DSP crisis.

We visited many IDD organizations to ask them about their workforce challenges. The feedback we received is outlined below:

  1. Unrealistic previews of the job – People coming into the job are not realizing the rigorous work that a DSP goes through. From assisting someone to fulfill their daily lives to de-escalating a crisis that may occur. Being a DSP requires greater skill, judgement, and responsibility than ever before.
  2. Burnout – Some facilities are 24/7 which requires working late shifts. If they anticipate harsh weather, DSPs often come in early before the storm and even stay the night. Due to high turnover, DSPs also fill in hours for shifts that former employees left vacant.
  3. Wages and Benefits – C-level executives tell us that they would love to raise DSP wages but don’t have the funding to do so. Wages reported from visits ranged from minimum wage to $10 per hour. (NADSP reported an average wage of $10.72 per hour)
  4. Ineffective Supervision –Stellar DSPs often move on to become first-time house managers or supervisors. While this is an exciting and challenging time for them, most organizations reported not having a manager’s orientation or a plan to train new first-time managers. This can cause frustration for staff who are reporting to them and bring down team morale.

Aside from the IDD organizations we visited, the National Core Indicators™ (NCI™) released a new staff stability report in January on IDD and echoed similar sentiments. Please see the below infographic for more information.

NCI Staff Stability Report by The Numbers
NCI Staff Stability Report by The Numbers

Source: National Core Indicators

If you have been in this field for some time, these numbers might not be shocking to you but to keep up with the increased demand of these services we MUST change. Change requires more than just changes to onboarding and training, we must also consider ongoing professional development and employee engagement as part of the puzzle to building a stronger workforce.

Considering the follow questions: does your staff feel valued? Do you understand your staff and what they value? Check the table below to see how the American Psychological Association defines work characteristics by generation:

(1925 to 1945)
Baby boomers
(1946 to 1960)
Generation X
(1961 to 1980)
(1981 to present)
• Practical • Optimistic • Skeptical • Hopeful
• Patient, loyal and hardworking • Teamwork and cooperation • Self-reliant • Meaningful work
• Respectful of authority • Ambitious • Risk-taking • Diversity and change valued
• Rule followers • Workaholic • Balances work and personal life • Technology savvy


Kyli Ly

Associate Product Manager for IDD and ABA, Relias

Kyli Ly currently works with Relias as an Associate Product Manager for IDD and ABA. Kyli graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s in Economics.

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