Role-related Stress and Perceptions of the Keyworker Role Among Professionals Supporting Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

John Moriarty, Daniel Regan, Rita Honan

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Purpose Individuals with intellectual disabilities who are users of day and residential services will often be assigned at least one ‘keyworker’, a staff member who is expressly responsive to their needs and responsible for coordinating services with them. Keyworkers are often given their role because it is a norm in their organisation. However, given the emotionally intensive workload involved in coordinating care for a single individual, little attention is given to the potential stress burden of being a keyworker.
Design A cross-sectional survey study was conducted of professionals’ perceptions of the keyworker role and of levels of workplace wellbeing. We first examine differences between keyworkers and their colleagues along measures of role perception and wellbeing. We then present a new measure of Keyworkers’ Duties and Boundaries (Key-DAB) capturing perceptions of the keyworker role by keyworkers and other staff. The measure was administered to a sample of staff (N = 69) from an Irish provider of services for adults with intellectual disabilities. Alongside the new scale, we administered established measures of workplace wellbeing and Locus of Control (LoC) to examine construct validity and assess if perception of keyworking could be related to stress.
Findings Some differences were detected between keyworkers and non-keyworkers: keyworkers had more internally-oriented LoC and experienced lower Work Pressure than non-keyworking colleagues. The Key-DAB measure possessed favourable psychometric properties, including high internal reliability. External validity was also shown as keyworkers’ scale scores were related to Locus of Control and to role demands. Results suggested: 1) that keyworkers who are clear about what is expected of the keyworker are more satisfied with their role and perceive keyworking as beneficial to them; 2) that Role Ambiguity and Role Conflict can undo these potential benefits and render the keyworker’s role a potentially hazardous one.
Value We recommend that employers provide clear guidelines and explicit training to keyworkers and suggest that our measures may be effective tools for ongoing assessment of keyworkers’ role clarity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-246
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Workplace Health Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019


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