Making sense of varying standards of care: the experiences of staff working in residential care environments for adults with learning disabilities

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Research evidence reveals that adults with learning disabilities who live in residential care facilities are being exposed to considerable variation in the standards of care they receive. High profile cases of substandard care have also raised concerns regarding the appropriateness of existing care provisions and practices. While attempts have been made to understand variations in care standards, there remains a need for more research in this area. Additionally, little attention has been paid to understanding support staff experiences of working in residential services and to developing a more theoretical understanding of the role they fulfil. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA), this study aimed to examine front-line staff members' experiences of working in residential care for people with learning disabilities. Six experienced front-line care workers (four female, two male) took part in semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed according to the principles of IPA, and three superordinate themes were identified as being central to participants' experiences of their work roles: Degree of Positive Relationship Reciprocity; Value Congruence and Intrinsic Motivation; and Experiences of Environmental and Organisational Constraints. Results are discussed in relation to the existing literature on care standards and the factors associated with abusive or neglectful practices, and in terms of their contribution to theory and applied practice.

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