student nurse at the university of ulster

Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities


The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Group within the Institute of Nursing Research at the University of Ulster was established in 1997 with the appointment of Professor Roy McConkey: a jointly-funded post with the then Eastern Health and Social Services Board. It is one of the leading research centres on learning disability in these islands with a growing international reputation. In 2010 it became the Regional Collaborating Centre for Special Olympics in Europe/Eurasia (jointly with the Sports and Exercise Research Institute at Ulster).

The group of eight staff and seven doctoral students has around 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals and research income in excess of £1.5 million. It has strong cross-border links with Trinity College, Dublin and with similar centres around the world.

Aims of the Centre:

  • To initiate research and evaluation projects that will inform the development and organisation of policy and services for people with disabilities taking account of the recommendations in the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability.
  • To undertake research into the health and wellbeing of children and young people, and with their families.
  • To forge alliances with practitioners and users, primarily in the Health and Social Care Agencies and with the independent sector, but also in Education, Housing and Employment.
  • To undertake joint projects with similar research groupings and networks primarily in Ireland and UK but also internationally.
  • To forge alliances with the wider research community to further the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream projects.
  • To respond to requests from agencies wishing to undertake research and evaluation of services relating to developmental disabilities and to children, young people and their families.
  • To communicate the insights from research and promote evidence-based practice through training courses, publications and workshops.

Programmes of work

The Centre focuses on three main strands of work. These are informed by the recommendations contained in the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability but have national and international applicability.

A PDF leaflet describing the work of the Centre is available for download here>>.

Vulnerability and complex needs

This includes issues such as:

  • Improving the life outcomes for young people leaving care.
  • Family support and the needs of carers.
  • Development of communication and social skills.
  • Building self-esteem and resilience.
  • Supporting family carers

Promoting the health and wellbeing of people with developmental disabilities.

This includes:

  • Health ageing.
  • Accessing healthcare services
  • Enhancing emotional well-being
  • Health promotion strategies for vulnerable groups and their carers.

Social Inclusion and Advocacy

Topics include:

  • Sports and leisure
  • Education options and choices
  • Accommodation and Employment options
  • Citizenship and participation in decision-making.

Cross-cutting themes

  • Within each programme, our research has a strong focus on the person within the context of the family and local community.
  • We endeavour to take a life-span perspective from early childhood to old age.
  • We aim to involve users of services in our project planning and implementation.
  • Service evaluations will be undertaken as part of our programme of work.