Disability Support Workers during COVID-19

Project Details

The results of over 350 disability support workers (DSWs) surveyed in May-June 2020 about working during the COVID-19 pandemic is now available in a research report (Download below).

This report outlines findings relating to physical distancing, COVID-19 infection control training, access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing, support provided, and financial and psychological stresses experienced by workers are summarised along with recommendations arising from the findings.

Kavanagh A, Dimov S, Shields M, McAllister A, Dickinson H & Kavenagh M (2020). Disability support workers: the forgotten workforce in COVID-19. Research Report. MelbourneThe University of Melbourne. https://doi.org/10.26188/12756428

Read the web report

Disability Support Work and COVID-19 Report

In September/October 2020, we surveyed Disability Support Workers again, this time during the Victoria's second wave, and published the findings in a follow up report:

Kavanagh A, Dimov St, Shields M, McAllister A, Dickinson H, Kavenagh M. (2021): Disability Support Workers: Follow up findings from the forgotten workforce in COVID-19 - Follow up findings, Wave 2 Research Report. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.

Disability Support Work and COVID-19 Wave 2 Report


Additional Research

In addition, we interviewed managers of disability residential settings about their experiences during Victoria’s second wave in July-October 2020. The study provides important insights into the challenges experienced by staff working in Victorian disability residential care and and how to avoid future COVID-19 outbreaks in high risk settings.

In March/April 2021, we surveyed disability support workers (DSWs) about their opinions and needs surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. Our findings show that vaccine hesitancy is much higher among disability support workers than the general population.

These reports are available to access below.

Research Publications

Kavanagh A, Dimov S, Shields M, McAllister A, Dickinson H & Kavenagh M (2020). Disability support workers: the forgotten workforce in COVID-19. Research Report. MelbourneThe University of Melbourne. https://doi.org/10.26188/12756428

Download DSW Report

Download Fact Sheet 1

Download Fact Sheet 2

Kavanagh A, Dimov St, Shields M, McAllister A, Dickinson H, Kavenagh M. (2021): Disability Support Workers: Follow up findings from the forgotten workforce in COVID-19 - Follow up findings, Wave 2 Research Report. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.

Download Wave 2 DSW Report

Kavanagh A, Dickinson H, Devine A, Dimov S & Huska M. (2021): Managing COVID-19 outbreaks in disability residential settings: Lessons from Victoria's second wave of COVID-19. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.

Managing COVID-19 in disability settings Report

Kavanagh A, Dimov S, Dickinson H, McAllister A, Shields M, Kavenagh M. (2021): Disability Support Workers: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and communication needs. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.

Vaccine Hesitancy and DSWs Report

Research Group

Disability and Health Unit


School Research Themes

Disparities, disadvantage and effective health care



Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Centre for Health Equity

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