Caregiver shortages could be addressed by worker-owned cooperatives, researchers say

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Worker-owned cooperatives could offer a solution to caregiver shortages in aging services, according to a recent case study published in Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work.

University of Georgia Assistant Professor Rebecca Matthew, MPH, MSW, Ph.D., and Vanessa Bransburg, MSW, a cooperative development specialist, examined the most popular forms of paid child care — for-profit and nonprofit services — alongside worker-owned child care cooperatives. They found that cooperatives, which give employees greater control over their working conditions and a share in profits, improved the quality of life of both care recipients and providers.

The model also could be applied to the provision of elder care, the authors said, noting that nearly half of caregivers employed in the elder care job sector rely on public benefits such as Medicaid to support themselves and their families.

Although the model is more common outside of the United States, the number of worker-owned direct care cooperatives for older adult clients in the United States has increased in recent years, according to Matthew and Bransburg. The largest one in the United States is Cooperative Home Care Associates in The Bronx, NY, which was founded in 1985 and, according to its website, now employs 1,900 workers, about half of whom are worker-owners. CHCA is affiliated with the nonprofit Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute and together, the two organizations provide free training to approximately 600 low-income and unemployed women annually, according to CHCA.

Other direct care cooperatives in the United States mentioned in the journal article include Cooperative Care of Wautoma, WI, launched in 2001 and now with 55 caregivers, according to its website; Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative, which began offering services in Bellingham, WA, in 2009 and now has more than 50 caregivers, according to its website; and the Golden Steps Elder Care Cooperative, launched in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY, according to its website.

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