The sociological study of institutions has developed considerably in the past two decades. It has moved from the case studies of mental hospitals (e.g. Stanton & Schwartz, 1954; Belknap, 1956) and the graphic, speculative typology of Goffman (1961) to empirically based comparative studies of facilities for both the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped (Hewett et al. 1975; Wing & Brown, 1970; Ullman, 1967; Wing & Hailey, 1972; Morris, 1969; King et al. 1971; Raynes et al. 1977). All these studies have included among their goals the development of our understanding of the structure and functioning of these institutions so as to facilitate the planning, administration and evaluation of better residential services. Further, since the publication of Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped (DHSS, 1971), it is clear that in the United Kingdom the government supports the provision of a continuum of services for mentally handicapped persons. As part of that continuum there is a commitment to provide residential facilities in the community for those who need such services.