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Supporting the woman, supporting the mother: Examining the interface between the NDIS and family support services for mothers with intellectual disability in New South Wales

Project Summary

This project looked at how services are supporting mothers with intellectual disability to care for their children. Although disability support is funded through the NDIS, family support is a State Government responsibility. This research looked at how the NDIS identified and supports needs of mothers with intellectual disability, and how this integrates with NSW State Government early intervention family support services. 

Contrary to widespread and ableist assumptions about their parenting incapacity, women with intellectual disability can and do parent successfully when they receive timely and appropriately-delivered supports, combined with informal assistance from family, friends and/or allies. As women are typically the primary caregivers of children, the primary research focus is on mothers; however, these findings have broad relevance for all parents with intellectual disability. 

The study uncovered barriers to service integration in NSW and proposed national research to address them.

Project Team


  • University of Sydney

  • University of New South Wales

  • FAMS provides support and advocacy for early intervention services for vulnerable children and families across NSW

  • WASH House is a community-based organisation working with women and girls impacted by poverty, social disadvantage and violence in Western Sydney 

  • People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a national disability rights, advocacy and representative organisation led by people with disability 



  • Dr Susan Collings (Lead Investigator) University of Sydney 

  • Dr Margaret Spencer, University of Sydney

  • Dr Gabrielle Hindmarsh, University of New South Wales

  • Dr Nikki Wedgwood, University of Sydney


  • Ms Julie Hourigan Ruse, Chief Executive Officer, FAMS

  • Catherine White, Acting Executive Officer, WASH House

  • Ms Leonie Hazleton, Project Manager, People with Disability Australia

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