Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Reviewing and Planning Individual Supported Living Arrangements

In 2007, Curtin University in Perth, Australia, launched the Individual Supported Living (ISL) project for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and in 2011 it produced an ISL manual, based on two research phases, providing a framework for reviewing and developing ISL arrangements. During the third phase of the project (2015–2018), which involved two other universities and six partner disability organizations, researchers evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of 130 ISL arrangements across Australia. Based on that research, Curtin University published an updated manual in 2017, extending the evidence base underpinning ISL.

“We wouldn’t hesitate to participate in relevant industry and research partnerships again…staff benefited from increased skills and knowledge…results and findings of the project are relevant to service delivery, design and policy making.”

About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Individual Supported Living
Organisation:Curtin University
of Implementation


  • Curtin University trained 111 researchers in order to undertake the third phase of the evaluations.
  • Four different ISL models were evaluated in this phase of the project.


In Australia, there is limited evidence to underpin the development of person-centred individual supported living arrangements for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


The manual outlines a framework of eight critical themes for successful ISL arrangements, such as Support, Control, and Social Inclusion. Across these eight themes there are 21 attributes that can be reviewed to determine the quality of ISL arrangements, and an accompanying ‘review scoring booklet’ allows people to score ISL arrangements against specific indicators under each attribute. People can use the framework for training and policy development, planning a new ISL arrangement, or to review an existing arrangement.

In this third research phase, 111 researchers trained in using the framework evaluated 130 ISL arrangements across Australia. Working in small teams, they spoke with the individuals themselves, their families, friends, support services, and other relevant stakeholders. Researchers used these evaluations to update the manual and to confirm the validity of the framework. They also identified a subgroup of participants with very high support needs living in successful ISL arrangements, demonstrating that the severity of support needs should not exclude anyone from individual supported living.


This third phase of the project was funded by a Linkage Project grant of $335,000 from the Australian Research Council. This was matched by in-kind contributions from the partner disability organizations and substantial contributions from the universities.

Future plans for the project include developing training modules on use of the manual for various stakeholder groups, including persons with disabilities, families, and advocates. To date, 211 stakeholders have already been trained in addition to the researchers. Further, the project has not yet addressed people living in their family home or in a group home, so this is a possible future avenue of research.

Curtin University expanded the project from a West Australia pilot to a national study. Moreover, there has been interest in the project internationally.


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