We are all in agreement that people deserve to earn a fair wage – that is not in question.
When we are working with a population of people with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities who may often have additional mental/medical/physical/behavior disabilities we are talking about a very complex situation. Our goals are to encourage as much independence and integration as possible and we realize that this most often includes personal supports to be in place.
For services and supports that are to be driven by person-centered planning and thinking with personal choice, most often this population has no choice or the choices are made by those who have no idea what the collateral damage of their decisions will be on those they are making the choices for. Choices which are said to “improve the quality of life” – without asking and working with those actually involved – how are these so-called choices proven to improve the quality of life of those affected?
One very recent issue is the closure of pre-vocational training jobs and facilities. Many people worked at these sites by CHOICE but that has been taken away because everyone deserves minimum wage. That’s fine – but in order to do the work to earn minimum wage, many of these people need paid supports in order to find and keep a job.
The issue is not only what the employer will pay the employee but who will pay for the support needed so the employee is able to work? We need to address this issue.
Currently the wage to a job vendor (in King County, Washington) is $73.00/hour whether an individual is receiving supports to find a job, or receiving job coaching to maintain a job. The counties authorize a certain number of hours for each person within employment services. There is a cap of $3,600 payment to a vendor per month (approximately 50 hours of employment for the employee who makes about minimum wage if they are actually employed.)
When the choice of pre-vocational training jobs was eliminated, most have been left with scraps.
Pre-Vocational Training – clients spent an average of 58.4 hours a month on-site – time that was both work/therapy/socialization. Clients worked an average of 43.9 hours a month of that 58.4 hour average. . This means that all people in the pre-vocational services had an average weekly engagement of 14-15 hours.
Fast Forward to the collateral damage of the current situation due to their choice taken away –
Community Inclusion – 45 people – average of 9 hours a month (decrease of 49 hours of engagement)
Employment Services – Total 62 people –
- 23 people are actually “employed” working an average of 8.75 hours a week (decrease of 49 hours of engagement a month)
- Employment rate of 37% (depends on how this is figured – could be 25%, 37% or 58% – I believe the correct percentage is 37% based off of how many are in the employment service and how many actually have a job)
- 39 people have no employment – ZERO hours of engagement
The Take Away –
- who is paying for the authorized funds for support? How much and for what supports and services? For those with NO employment are the vendors still being paid for supports?
- We went from a high employment and engagement rate for this population to an extremely low employment and engagement rate. What was the cost? Not just in dollars but in meaningful life experiences.
- Do these people feel more integrated and engaged and feel their life has more meaning than before this choice was taken away?
It behooves us to look at this and understand the collateral damage.
We believe in choice and wise use of the meager resources we have in methods that will best serve the most people.
Encourage your legislators to address the JLARC report and issues regarding person-centered planning and choice, quality of life for both the individual and their supports -we do not live and work in isolation.