Co-designing mutual recognition in paid disability support relationships

Stream: Disability, policy and governance
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 3.40 pm – 5.00 pm


Mutual recognition within paid support relationships is key to the wellbeing of both the person with disability and their disability support worker. This paper examines how to co-design their capacity to create and maintain mutuality within their paid support relationship, defined as reciprocal caring about, respecting and valuing each other.

The project used participatory action research with disability organisations, people with disability, and support workers participating in workshops for the design, development and evaluation of training resources (Inclusion Melbourne DesignLab and People With Disability Australia). It developed capacity building resources for enhancing mutuality in support relationships, specifically, a training manual and activity guide. The resources are for disability service providers, support workers, policy makers, people with disability, and their families and allies.

The research found that many people are comfortable with articulating their needs and preferences directly with support workers and managing the working relationship from the outset. Some required assistance, time and different methods of asking about what they want to be able to communicate about changes they would like to make. People with disability said that activities together with the workers were a useful, concrete way of exploring their preferences. Some support workers also said they had learnt new things about the person they supported and their interests through the training activities.

The implications from the research are that it is possible to operationalise the seemingly esoteric concept of mutual recognition into concrete training activities that model the mutual caring, respect and value that they seek to explore.


Sally Robinson (Presenter), Disability and Community Inclusion, Flinders University
Sally Robinson leads research and evaluation in social policy, focusing particularly on safety and harm, accommodation and social exclusion concerns of people with disability.

Karen Fisher (Presenter), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney
Karen Fisher researches social services in Australia and China, including disability and mental health community services; inclusive research and evaluation methodology; and social policy process.

Laura Davy, UNSW Canberra
Laura Davy is a Research Fellow in the Equity and Diversity stream at the Public Service Research Group, UNSW Canberra. A political theorist and sociologist, her research focuses on disability and care theory and policy. Her current research analyses the range of influences shaping disability policy in Australia and internationally, such as the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the shift towards market-based social services delivery.