To read this content please select one of the options below:

Role-related stress and perceptions of the keyworker role among professionals supporting adults with intellectual disabilities

John Moriarty (Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Daniel Regan (School of Psychology, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Rita Honan (School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 23 July 2019




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 co-ordinating 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 co-ordinating care for a single individual, little attention is given to the potential stress burden of being a keyworker. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


A cross-sectional survey study was conducted of professionals’ perceptions of the keyworker role and of levels of workplace well-being. The authors first examine differences between keyworkers and their colleagues along measures of role perception and well-being. The authors 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, the authors administered established measures of workplace well-being and locus of control (LoC) to examine construct validity and assess if perception of keyworking could be related to stress.


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 LoC and to role demands. Results suggested: 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; that role ambiguity and role conflict can undo these potential benefits and render the keyworker’s role a potentially hazardous one.


The authors recommend that employers provide clear guidelines and explicit training to keyworkers and suggest that the measures may be effective tools for ongoing assessment of keyworkers’ role clarity.



Moriarty, J., Regan, D. and Honan, R. (2019), "Role-related stress and perceptions of the keyworker role among professionals supporting adults with intellectual disabilities", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 228-246.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles