Statement on restrictive physical interventions with children

The statement has been signed by Mencap, the Council for Disabled Children, the Tizard Centre, and the Children's Commissioner for England.

Whilst guidance about the use of restrictive physical interventions with adults exists, there is currently no equivalent guidance for children. The Department of Health has commissioned the Council for Disabled Children to produce some equivalent guidance for children, but whilst that guidance is under development this statement aims to clarify the current position.

The situation is urgent as there is evidence of over-reliance on restrictive interventions in learning disability services and mental health services in England. National policy is clear that services must change this culture, and seek to limit the use of physical, restrictive and chemical restraint on children.

National guidance states that restraint should never involve more force than is necessary, and should be for the shortest time possible. Restraint should not involve prone restraint (holding children face down on the floor) at all, as this practice is both dangerous and distressing.

Our statement makes clear that there is evidence about how to effectively support children and young people with learning disabilities who display behaviour described as challenging. Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) is an effective, evidence-based approach to supporting people with learning disabilities whose behaviours challenge services.

Understanding the function, or reason, for a child’s behaviour allows effective support to be put in place and their quality of life to be enhanced. The Challenging Behaviour Foundation is publishing this statement on restrictive physical interventions with children in the hope that its information will lead to better practice and, as a consequence, better outcomes for children.

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