Active Support has been researched over 30 years, firstly in Wales and now across the world.

It is a proven model of support that supports people with a  range of learning disabilities, behaviour that challenges and autism to plan the best use of their time, with the correct level of support, to engage or participate in all activities that make up day-to-day living.

Drawing on previous research, Mansell, Beadle-Brown, Whelton, Beckett, and Hutchinson (2008) report that residents in group homes typically receive direct assistance from staff to engage in ‘meaningful activities’ and relationships less than six minutes in every hour. When the focus is people with profound intellectual disabilities this figure drops to about one minute in each hour. As people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities typically require staff support to be involved in ‘meaningful activities’, this means that they can be disengaged for the majority of the day.

  • To improve services for people who present behavioural challenges and to enable them to remain in their own homes and communities requires the creation and support of capable environments. Competency-based training and professional support is required for all carers together with the promotion of creative solutions to the challenges faced.
  • The quality of staff support provided should be focused on enabling the individual to engage in meaningful activity and relationships at home and in the community. Staff should be skilled and well-organised to deliver.
Active Support – Challenging Behaviour a Unified Approach 2007 Royal College of Psychiatrists


Mansel II Report – Services for People with Learning Disabilities and Challenging Behaviour or Mental Health Needs
  • A key contribution to local capability is that staff working with people whose behaviour presents a challenge have adequate training. Many services at present attempt to deal with the challenge they face by adding more and more staff at greater and greater cost.
  • Instead, commissioners should fund higher levels of skill through training. All services will need staff who have enough understanding of the causes of challenging behaviour to prevent it arising or getting worse. This means that they are trained in person-centred approaches, including:
    • Person-centred active support
    • Positive behaviour support
    • Total communication approaches
    • Recognising and responding to mental health problems
    • Person-centred planning
Active Support Participation and Depression 2010
R Standcliffe, K McVilly, G Radler, L Monford, P Tomaszewski
  • Conclusions: Our findings confirm and extend previous Active Support research showing that implementation of Active Support is followed by increased resident participation in activities. The significant improvements in adaptive behaviour, challenging behaviour and depression are of particular interest as the present study is among the first to report such effects.
The Effectiveness of Staff Support for People with Learning Disabilities April 2001
E Jones, K Lowe, E EmersonD Felce C Bowley H Baxter
  • Active Support was shown in two studies to increase the levels of assistance residents in staffed community houses received and their engagement in activity. Increased assistance was particularly experienced by the behaviorally less able and the disparity in activity between the more and less able was reduced.
Engagement and ‘active support’
Authors: Jim Mansell, Teresa Elliott, Julie Beadle-Brown, Bev Ashman and Susan Macdonald, Tizard Centre, University of Kent at Canterbury, United Kingdom
  • A number of studies have shown that even very severely or profoundly disabled residents can significantly increase the extent to which they participate in meaningful activities if staff adopt what has come to be called an ‘active support’ model of care (Brown, Toogood, & Brown, 1987; Felce, de Kock, & Repp, 1986; Felce & Perry, 1995; Jones et al., 1999; Mansell, 1994, 1995

Quotes from staff

Care Management Group Cymru
  • Manager – “I’ve seen the dramatic changes it can have on people’s lives. One lady in her 60’s is now able to do things that she’s not had the opportunity to do before, I think it’s absolutely marvellous. I can see how it improves her self-esteem and allows her to participate, as she should be.”
  • Support Worker – “Before we were doing everything but now we are involving everyone in their breakfast, getting the dishes out and generally helping with running the house; like helping to load the washing machine, putting the washing in the dryer. Now people want to do things – we don’t have to ask. Instead of sitting around when you’re preparing lunch people are involved with preparing the food. People enjoy doing it. They are not so bored.”
Prospects Cymru
  • Manager – “I believe in Active Support very strongly. I think it’s true to say that the people who find life most difficult are the people you do less with. The more able a person the more you’ll do with them. Active Support has helped us to see that with a little more help, those less able people can become more independent and do more for themselves. I think there are many ways we can look after people – we can care for them or we can support them. A person who isn’t engaged is actually just sitting there, sitting there doing nothing is boring.”
  • Registered Manager – “Sometimes we can forget how much people can do and we tend to do too much for people. Active Support has shown us that instead of rushing about to get the activity done we can spend more time on the activity itself – it doesn’t matter how much people participate as long as there is participation.”
  • “When we came on the training we had difficulty building in the goal plans because people were very active. But it really helped us to spot the little things – the gaps. It’s difficult to pick out the main benefits because there have been so many for staff and service users.”