• To identify how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected support staff working with people with learning disabilities
• To learn about pandemic-related stressors and the coping strategies developed by support staff in response
• To explore how managers and employers can reduce the stress levels support staff are exposed to
Background During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, support staff working with people with learning disabilities experienced a range of stressors directly related to the effects of the pandemic on themselves and on service users. Supporting staff well-being is crucial given their essential role in the lives of people with learning disabilities.
Aim To investigate the experiences, during the COVID-19 pandemic, of support staff working in residential and supported-living services for people with learning disabilities and understand the stressors staff encountered, the ways in which they managed stress and the support mechanisms they found useful.
Method A qualitative descriptive approach was used and individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 support staff working in residential or supported-living services for people with learning disabilities in the south of England.
Findings The COVID-19 pandemic caused additional stress for staff, including information overload, challenges in providing person-centred, holistic support, and feelings of unfairness or being let down. However, staff derived benefits from timely, practical and non-judgemental support from managers and peers, and from celebrating their own and service users’ achievements.
Conclusion A greater focus on non-judgemental listening by managers, celebration of staff’s and service users’ achievements and awareness of the potential overwhelming effects of email communication could reduce the stress levels support staff are exposed to.
Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2021.e2170Peer review
This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated softwareCorrespondence
Nuttall A, Douglass E, Deering K (2021) COVID-19-related stressors and coping strategies of support staff working with people with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2021.e2170
Published online: 16 December 2021