Frontline practice leadership in supported accommodation services: Reviewing the evidence

Professor Christine Bigby1, Dr Lincoln Humphreys1

1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia

In supported accommodation services for people with intellectual disabilities, there is growing evidence that the strength of a subset of frontline management, Frontline Practice Leadership (Practice Leadership), impacts on the quality of staff practice. The increasing diversity of accommodation services raises questions about the key tasks of Practice Leadership and ways of organising them.

This paper reports on a scoping review guided by the following questions: what is the evidence for the significance of Practice Leadership, the tasks and ways of organising it, and the organisational challenges in ensuring services have strong Practice Leadership. A systematic search identified 23 papers, from which data were extracted and analysed.

Research demonstrates the positive impact of Practice Leadership on the quality of Active Support, on staff satisfaction, the way it is valued by staff in day and supported accommodation services and its association with group home culture. Both practice wisdom and research indicate Practice Leaders need to know staff and the people they support to be effective. Despite its importance, evidence suggests Practice Leadership is weak in many services and few Practice Leaders have any specific training.

The organisation and funding of Practice Leadership should take into account evidence about its significance for service quality and being structured close to the front line. Organisations should ensure sufficient time for Practice Leaders to perform the five tasks of this role and that there is evidence-based training and professional development available for staff in these positions.


Professor Bigby is the Director of the Living with Disability Research Centre at LaTrobe University. She has a long track record of working in partnership with disability support organisations investigating the effectiveness of social programs and policies that aim to support the social inclusion of adults with intellectual disabilities.