Active support study finds shared supported accommodation services inefficient for more able people with learning disabilities


Active support involves training staff in working practices and organisational procedures to improve levels of participation and increase levels of engagement in activities and the authors of this study have written about its effectiveness elsewhere

In this study, they set out to explore the characteristics of the residents who were being supported by organisations implementing active support.

They were also interested in how active support was provided in these organisations and wanted to understand the procedures and systems used and look at, engagement in meaningful activity and relationships for the residents.

What they did was work with 6 organisations in Victoria, Australia, with a 5–10-year history of implementing active support and gathered information from 33 group homes through the use of questionnaires and direct observations.

What they found was

  • people who had lower support needs were engaged with little staff contact or assistance
  • the use of active support systems and structures was mixed
  • only one of the six organisations was found to consistently provide good active support.

The active support handbook produced by the Association for Real Change suggests that implementing active support requires a commitment from both staff teams and management, along with regular meeting time for staff to monitor and revise plans.

The authors of this study suggest however that such administrative systems and structures are not sufficient to change staff interaction and subsequently the experience of residents.

They conclude that “Shared supported accommodation services may represent an inefficient use of resources for more able residents, as staff resources are not maximised to support for resident engagement.”

Implementation of active support in Victoria, Australia: An exploratory study, Mansell J et al., in Journal of intellectual and Developmental disability, 38, 1 , 48-58
Reference: Active Support Handbook: A handbook for supporting people with learning disabilities to lead full lives, Jones E et al., Association for Real Change

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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