The experience of personal assistance service users in Ireland. A mixed-methods approach

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is conducting a research study aiming to understand the experiences of personal assistance service users in Ireland. The study is funded by the National Disability Authority as part of a joint research programme on the experiences of persons with disabilities across key policy areas. A research team from the ESRI comprising Selina McCoy and Eamonn Carroll is doing the study. The study is led by Selina McCoy. Both survey and interview data are collected as part of the study from personal assistance service users in Ireland.

What is the project about?

The aim of this research project is to better understand the experience of personal assistance service users in Ireland. The NDA defines a personal assistance service users as someone ‘employed by the person with a disability to enable them to live an independent life. The personal assistant provides assistance, at the discretion and direction of the person with the disability, thus promoting choice and control for the person with the disability to live independently’ (Buchanan, 2014). The research considers areas such as:

  1. How do the experiences of personal assistant service users differ?
  2. What are the personal goals that persons with disabilities aim for in using their personal assistant services?
  3. How do personal assistance service users fare in terms of their quality of life?
  4. How do personal assistance service users describe their relationships with their personal assistants?
  5. What are the challenges of personal assistance service users and what do they recommend for the development of personal assistant services in Ireland?


What will it tell us?

This study will help us find ways to make personal assistance supports better in the future.

Who will participate in the study?

Personal assistant service users in Ireland who receive services through selected service providers in Ireland are invited to participate in this study. Participants will receive an invitation to participate in a survey from their service provider. A few participants will also be asked to participate in an interview. There are no negative effects if invited participants refuse to participate in this study.

What are participating service providers expected to do?

The ESRI research team will work with service providers to identify the target population for the survey among their PA service recipients. Service providers will not be asked to share any personal data on PA service recipients with the research team. The ESRI will provide service providers with all communication materials and will assist service providers with their needs in the survey dissemination process.


Ethical approval

The Ethics Committee of the ESRI has reviewed the application for this study. The ethics approval for the study was received on April 20th, 2021.

Data protection and confidentiality for surveys

Survey responses are anonymous and will not be linked to respondents, unless respondents tell us they are also interested in participating in an interview. Survey data will be deleted after one year. Further details on how the ESRI protects your data is available here.

Data protection and confidentiality for interviewees

The transcripts of the interviews will not be shared with anyone outside the research team. What interviewees share with us is confidential unless they tell us something that makes us concerned about their wellbeing. Then we have to tell someone who can help. For example, if they tell us about having experienced sexual abuse or tell us about someone else who is or was sexually abused, we will have to tell Tusla or An Garda Síochána. Interview recordings will be deleted after being transcribed. Transcripts will be deleted after one year.

Project contact person

Any questions about this study can be sent to Selina McCoy at