Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Self-directed support and people with learning difficulties: a review of the published research evidence.

Harkes, Mary Anne; Brown, Michael; Horsburgh, Dorothy


Mary Anne Harkes

Michael Brown

Dorothy Horsburgh


Accessible summary

•Self Directed Support is the latest system of social care providing vulnerable people in the United Kingdom with a budget instead of direct service provision.
•There is a lack of evidence underpinning the strategy of Self Directed Support.
•There is a need to learn more about how well the policies are working.
•Barriers need to be identified and overcome to ensure that people who are eligible can access Self Directed Support.


A systematic literature review was undertaken to determine the evidence base underpinning the strategy of Self Directed Support and whether evidence demonstrates that this policy is accessible to everyone with a learning disability. It also sought to identify whether there were any barriers to Self Directed Support for people with severe or profound learning disabilities and, if so, how these barriers could be overcome. Four mixed-method research papers, two quantitative studies, seven qualitative studies and four literature reviews were identified. The findings indicated that very few studies pertain specifically to people with learning disabilities, and little account has been taken of their range of ability or the distinction between adults with legal capacity and those without. It is evident from the literature that Self Directed Support is not, as yet, attainable for everyone with a learning disability but those able to access it have reported an improvement in their quality of life. There is a need for further research to determine the extent of awareness and understanding of the policy of Self Directed Support, and the implications it will have on the future care of people with a wide range of learning disabilities.


Harkes, M. A., Brown, M., & Horsburgh, D. (2014). Self-directed support and people with learning difficulties: a review of the published research evidence. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 87-101.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2014-06
Deposit Date Apr 30, 2013
Print ISSN 1354-4187
Electronic ISSN 1468-3156
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Pages 87-101
Keywords Developmental disability; direct payment; intellectual disability; learning disability; Self Directed Support;
Public URL
Publisher URL