This report summarises the findings from an Australian longitudinal study of the quality of support in group homes for people with intellectual disabilities. The study aimed to identfiy the organisational factors that influence the extent to which staff provide Active Support and sustain its practice in organisations.
Active Support has been a primary strategy to improve the quality of life of service users, address their disengagement and the variability of staff practice. Active Support is an evidence-based practice whereby staff provide sufficient facilitative assistance to enable service users to take part in meaningful activities and relationships, irrespective of the degree of intellectual disability or presence of additional problems (Mansell & Beadle-Brown, 2012). Unequivocally, front-line staff practice based on Active Support leads to better quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities (Mansell & Beadle-Brown, 2012) and is a foundational strategies of positive behaviour support . Active Support has been widely adopted in Australia but has been difficult to embed in services. The study used observational methods to collect data on the qualit of support and involved both longitundinal and cross sectional data sets. The largest data set comprised 461 service users from 134 services managed by 14 disability support organisations. The finding show that Findings across the different data sets provide rigorous evidence that the following features at the service and organisational levels are predictors of good Active Support:
- Staff trained in Active Support;
- Strong practice leadership of individual direct support workers and their team through regular coaching, observation and feedback about their practice, discussion of Active Support in team meetings and individual supervision, shift planning, and support to maintain focus on the quality of life of the people they support as core to everything they do;
- Practice leadership structured such that leaders are close to every-day practice, and their tasks are not split across different positions;
- Staff having confidence in the management of the organisation;
- Services with a staff culture of supporting wellbeing;
- Services supporting no more than six people under one roof;
- Services supporting people with relatively homogenous support needs but who do not all have challenging behaviour;
- Senior leaders having a shared understanding of Active Support, and recognising and valuing high quality practice.
At the individual level, higher levels of adaptive behaviour were predictive of better Active Support.
This study has contributed substantial and rigorous evidence about the factors necessary to sustain good Active Support at the service and organisational levels. Active Support and Practice Leadership are among the few areas in disability practice with an evidence base which provide behavioural indicators of and benchmarks for good practice. This knowledge should be used by disability support organisations, the NDIS, and the Commission to ensureeffective use of disability funding and improve the quality of disability services in Australia.
Attached to the report are 4 published papers which are all open access.