Rural Carers of People with Disabilities: Making Choices to Move or to Stay

06 March 2017

When a child is born with, or an individual acquires, a disability in rural Australia, one of the decisions faced by the family is whether to remain living in a rural area or move to a larger metropolitan centre to access support services such as therapy. Understanding the factors that rural carers weigh up in making the decision to move or stay can inform the successful implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in rural areas. Seventy-eight rural carers were recruited to participate in individual interviews or focus groups to discuss access to therapy services. Data were analysed using modified grounded theory involving thematic analysis and constant comparison. Participants made decisions about whether to stay living in their rural community or to move to a larger centre to receive therapy services according to three interlinked factors: personal factors related to their other family caring responsibilities; social factors including their informal support networks of family, friends, and community; and economic factors including employment and the time and cost of travelling to access specialist services in larger centres. These factors need to be considered in the roll-out of the NDIS to ensure that rural service users enjoy the benefit of a real choice to live in a rural area without reducing their access to support services.