Administrative compliance or personal outcomes? Exploring staff perspectives about service quality in day services for people with intellectual disabilities

Mrs Jade Mcewen1

1La Trobe University, Australia

For over 30 years, Australian governments have defined what good service quality is and how it is monitored in services for people with intellectual disabilities. Methods used by government to monitor service quality have focused on paperwork, rather than frontline practice. It is not known how the governments approach to service quality has influenced staff perceptions in disability service organisations, or if organisations make additional efforts to monitor it outside the confines of government regulation.

Using a constructivist grounded theory methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 participants, consisting of both frontline staff and leaders, from 3-day services located throughout Melbourne, Victoria. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed using constant comparison and line-by-line coding.

The majority of people interviewed perceived service quality to be about observing the quality of the support people with intellectual disabilities receive, suggesting a disconnect between the methods used by government to monitor service quality and the perceptions of people working within disability day service organisations.

The governments focus on paperwork as a measure of service quality suggests that unless disability service organisations take it upon themselves to monitor the quality of the supports people with intellectual disabilities receive, it may not be being monitored at all. Consequently, there is a risk that poor quality support and in extreme cases abuse and neglect may go undetected within organisations.


Jade has worked in the disability sector for 20 years across Australia and abroad. The last 9 of which, she has spent completing a PhD focused on how service quality could be better conceptualised and monitored within disability service organisations.