Background The social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities presents a major challenge to services. As part of a 12-year follow up of people resettled from long-stay hospitals, the size of 213 individuals’ social networks and the types of social support they received were investigated, as viewed by people with intellectual disabilities themselves. The types of support received in four different kinds of community accommodation were compared. Method Individuals were interviewed and their social support networks mapped using a Social Network Guide developed for the study. Descriptive statistics were generated and comparisons made using generalized linear modelling. Results The sample comprised 117 men (average age 51 years) and 96 women (average age 56 years). All but seven were White British, 92% were single and they had in general, mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. The average network size was 22 members (range 3–51). The mean density was 0.5. A quarter of all network members were other service users with intellectual disabilities and a further 43% were staff. Only a third of the members were unrelated to learning disability services. In general, the main providers of both emotional and practical support were staff, although these relationships were less likely to be described as reciprocal. Other people with intellectual disabilities were the second most frequent providers of all types of support. People in small group homes, hostels and supported accommodation were significantly more likely to report close and companiable relationships than those in residential and nursing homes, but they also reported a greater proportion of critical behaviour. Conclusions The social networks revealed in this study are considerably larger than those of previous studies which have relied on staff reports, but findings about the generally limited social integration of people with intellectual disabilities are similar. A clearer policy and practice focus on the desirability of a range of different social contexts from which to derive potentially supportive network members is required so that people do not remain segregated in one area of life
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