Promoting Social Inclusion in Ontario-Funded Group Homes: Perceptions of Disability Support Workers before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Social inclusion is increasingly considered a social determinant of health for people with and without disabilities. In Ontario, group homes are one of the most common forms of residential services for people with intellectual disabilities, and therefore it is critical to explore the promotion of social inclusion for adults with intellectual disabilities within these homes specifically. Disability support workers provide most of the supervision and support to residents with intellectual disabilities living in group homes in Ontario. Research recognizes disability support workers as significant support factors for people with intellectual disabilities who live in group homes and recommends further exploration into understanding disability support worker’s roles and actions to support social inclusion. Therefore, the overall purpose of this research is to understand how social inclusion is promoted by disability support workers in Ontario-funded group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities. The methods to complete this research include a scoping review to understand what is currently known about barriers and facilitators to social inclusion within group homes, a series of one-on-one interviews with currently employed disability support workers to understand their experiences in promoting social inclusion both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the application of the socio-ecological model for health promotion to understand the various levels of factors that impact the success of a disability support worker in promoting inclusion for residents with intellectual disabilities. When these methods are combined, the research defines and describes potential avenues for how disability support workers can be supported to promote social inclusion. The dissertation corroborates the importance of the individual support worker, while also highlighting that all levels of the environment impact the outcome of inclusion, including interpersonal, institutional, community and public policy. Overall, this dissertation highlights the importance of disability support workers and their significant impact on those that they support. Supporting the support workers will not only improve the well-being of those who are doing this important job but work to ensure we have better care and support for those who require it, including those with intellectual disabilities living in our provincially funded residential services.