Research Topic: The experiences of support work relationships within the ruling relations - An institutional ethnographic research study on the relationships between personal budget holders with intellectual disabilities and their support workers in Australia and Germany
Supervisor: Prof Kelley Johnson
Co-Supervisor: Prof Karen Fisher
Debbie has many years of work experience as a practitioner in the field of disability and has worked as a support worker, teaching assistant, program team leader, and case manager for people with disabilities in Germany and Australia.
Debbie obtained a B.A. (Social Work) from the Cooperative State University in Stuttgart, Germany in 2009 and a M.Ed. (Special Education) from the University of Sydney in 2011. She is the recipient of both an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and a UNSW Arts & Social Sciences Top-up scholarship.
Debbie was employed as a Research Officer at the Social Policy Research Centre from April 2012 to August 2013, where she worked on a number of government-commissioned evaluations of services for people with disabilities. Following her employment, she spent several months in Ireland at the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID), Trinity College Dublin, and returned to Australia in August 2014 when she started her PhD studies.
Debbie also has research and teaching experiences in the field of disability. Amongst others, she worked in the intellectual disability and behaviour support (IDBS) program for Prof Leanne Dowse at the UNSW School of Social Sciences where she also taught Qualitative Social Research. Furthermore, she has taught Introduction to Disability Studies at Cooperative State University in Stuttgart, Germany.
- Intellectual Disability
- Assistance/ support work
- Support/care relationships
- Inclusive and participatory research
- Disability policies and reforms
- Qualitative research methods
- Ethical research relationships
Debbie's research study aims to better understand the relationships between people with intellectual disabilities using a personal budget and their support workers in Germany and Australia. Many countries, including Germany and Australia, have introduced personal budgets for people with intellectual disabilities. A personal budget is a sum of money that allows people with intellectual disabilities to purchase their own support work. Support workers are people who assist budget holders with intellectual disabilities in organising and doing support work activities, such as shopping, physical exercises, cooking or travelling to work.
Debbie’s PhD research investigated two questions: (1) How are people with intellectual disabilities in receipt of a personal budget and their support workers experiencing their relationships with each other? (2) How have the lived experiences of people with intellectual disabilities and their support workers in their relationship with each other been influenced by personal budget policies organising support work?
Through the methodology of Institutional Ethnography, Debbie has explored both questions in Australia and Germany. This methodology states that people’s everyday experiences are influenced by the ‘ruling relations’, which are policy processes and people’s practices that organise social settings, in which people work together.
During almost two years of field research in Australia and Germany, Debbie conducted participant observation and interviews with people with intellectual disabilities and their support workers from each country, interviews with disability service professionals in each country and analysed disability policy documents from each country. The empirical findings of Debbie’s research study identified and unpacked the experiences of support work relationships within ‘ruling relations’ across both national contexts. These empirical findings will be published in the near future.