Worker Well-being is Community Well-Being: Why the Human Service Workforce needs a living wage
Illinois Partners latest research report centers the voices and experiences of more than 850 frontline community-based health and human service workers; their struggle to make a living wage, and their commitment to their clients and communities.  The opening letter to the report is below; here is a link to the full report, the infographic summary, and IL Partners research pagewhich contains all of our research to date.
Dear Reader,

What you are about to read is the final chapter in Illinois Partners’ current series of reports related to sustaining the health and human services workforce. Support and investment in frontline workers have been the common thread of our advocacy over the last three years. It is the primary plot point in every story that health and human service organizations are telling throughout the state. In this report, alongside extremely compelling data, we offer a missing piece to this common narrativethe voices and real-life experiences of these essential workers, in their own words. 

Their words provide the framework for an honest and, at times, scathing indictment of the way our government and society continually undervalue community-based human service workers. They shed light on just how few of our highly skilled and educated workers make a living wage and what surviving day-to-day looks like for those on the frontlines of caring for our communities. Over and over, respondents shared versions of the same story– one of being unable to make ends meet. Getting by on spoonfuls of peanut butter, risking well-being by delaying medical care, sorting bills by deciding which utilities are least likely to be shut off, and more. Yet, when asked why they stay in their jobs, the answer was almost universally the samethey love their work and their clients. So while this report also tells the story of a resilient and committed workforce, a key takeaway bears repeating: Resilience doesn’t pay the bills.

Learning about these experiences should enrage you. It should remind you how thin the line is between those providing care and those receiving it. It should call you to action because it reiterates the inequities that continue to undermine the potential of women and people of color in our established systems. It should also concern you because the future of our sector is uncertain without bold and pragmatic policy decisions to sustain its workforce. The well-being of our communities is directly tied to the well-being of our human service workers. The consequences for failing to do so is a story yet to be told. 

In Solidarity,

Lauren Wright

Executive Director, Illinois Partners for Human Service

We will be sharing key takeaways from this report in a webinar on April 24th at 12 PM – you can register for that event here.