Negotiating safety, belonging and agency in shared disability accommodation: an Australian qualitative study

Author: Ellen Fraser-Barbour

Fraser-Barbour, Ellen, 2024 Negotiating safety, belonging and agency in shared disability accommodation: an Australian qualitative study, Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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This study explored the lived experiences of residents living in shared types of disability supported accommodation and investigates how such people negotiated their personal safety, belonging and agency. This study is shaped by a theoretical perspective strongly rooted within a social justice paradigm of critical feminist disability studies.

Seven people with disability took part in this study (representing a wide range of ages). Two lived in stand-alone group homes, 3 lived in clustered group homes and 2 lived in a hostel type setting. Participants shared their experiences through a range of mediums including semi structured traditional interviews, walking-and-talking conversations, drawing, collage and photos. The analysis extended on critical feminist disability studies by also drawing on new-materialist assemblage theory as a means to strengthen analysis and account for both the material and semiotic factors underscoring supported accommodation. These theories helped to shed light on the patterns of epistemic injustice experienced by residents in supported accommodation.

These narrative accounts collectively show that each person’s experiences of safety, belonging and agency were profoundly changed when moving into supported accommodation settings. Participants saw structured routine and paid supports as crucial to their safety and survival. They saw supported accommodation as the only viable way to access these routine daily supports without being dependent on unpaid family or supports. Yet in these shared types of supported accommodation there was a climate of compromise. Residents felt safe because they had support and housing – yet were compromising on aspects of safety, belonging and agency in a range of personal ways. There were a plethora of examples where participants negotiated a multitude of issues of powerlessness, loneliness and abuse.

This doctoral thesis documented these accounts solely from residents’ perspectives. There were a range of insights and implications for policy and practice derived from the wisdom of these seven participants. This included the need for services to consider how they shift the power dynamics so that residents have decision making authority and are recognized as valuable contributors of knowledge. It also requires broader systemic and political reform to address the un-met need for housing and support in ways that do not rely on traditional group home models.

Keywords: Disability, social services, support services, accommodation, NDIS, violence, abuse, neglect, safety, belonging, choice, control, creative methods, qualitative, narrative inquiry, new materialist assemblage analysis

Subject: Disability Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Ruth Walker