What is good service quality for people with intellectual disability? Frontline day service staff’s perspectives on what it is and how it should be measured

Mrs Jade McEwen1, Professor Christine Bigby1, Professor Jacinta Douglas1

1Latrobe University, Living with Disability Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia

For the past 30 years, Victorian day services have been regulated under quality systems that predominantly measure processes and paperwork, rather than the quality of the supports people with disabilities receive. Consequently little is known about the quality of the support provided to people with disabilities, and the types of issues which may contribute to or impede ‘good’ service quality. This research explores the way frontline day service staff perceive and measure service quality, to gain deeper insight into how they support people with intellectual disabilities, and how their perceptions may influence the quality of the support they provide.

Guided by a constructivist grounded theory methodology, 9 semi structured interviews were undertaken with frontline support staff from 3 disability service organisations. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed for key themes using line by line coding.

Staff believed that good service quality was achieved through person centred, active supports that were guided by knowledgeable ‘hands on’ leaders. However, many staff felt that there was too much focus on paperwork and processes within their services, which led to ‘good’ support going unrecognised and ‘poor’ support going undetected.

Findings from this study may be relevant for future policy development, practise improvement and research in the disability services sector, particularly regarding quality assurance and safeguarding.


Jade has worked in the disability sector for 16 years in numerous quality improvement and practise leadership roles.  Jade is a Phd candidate with La Trobe University’s Living with Disability Research Centre, where she is researching the way service quality is perceived and measured in disability services.

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