Background evidence for the statement of ASID’s position on intellectual disability and complex support needs

Professor Leanne Dowse1, Assoc Prof Angela Dew2, Dr Alec Sewell

1UNSW Sydney, Australia, 2Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

In 2019 ASID released a position statement on people with intellectual disability who have complex support needs, acknowledging that this group’s needs are currently not adequately recognised in policy or supported across multiple service sectors. This paper presents the evidence and issues that provide the background to the position statement.

Drawing on available literature and a program of research conducted at UNSW over the past decade key evidence regarding the nature, definition, prevalence and cost are drawn together to identify effective models of response.

Issues underpinning effective responses for people with intellectual disability and complex support needs are identified to include attention to service eligibility criteria, supports to access services, support planning approaches which are able to take account of multiple and intersecting needs and a skilled and capable workforce in both specialist disability and mainstream service contexts.

The position statement supports the need for consistent definitions of complex support needs, coherent data collection, cross sector policy commitment, evidence-based evaluation and targeted early and ongoing intervention to enhance quality outcomes for this group over the life course.


Leanne Dowse is Professor of Disability Studies at UNSW Sydney where she leads a program of work aimed at producing knowledge to inform responses to people with intellectual disability who have complex support needs in policy and practice.

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