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Describe what constitutes restrictive practices

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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Restrictive practice refers to a range of methods that may be used to restrain an individual. Any practice that restricts the rights or freedom of movement of an individual is considered a restrictive practice.

This can include physical restraint either by holding an individual or utilising equipment (e.g. rope, bed restraints etc.) as well as medical restraint (e.g. sedatives) or seclusion (e.g. locking an individual in a room).

Restrictive practice without legal and ethical justification is unlawful and should not be used without appropriate training, authorisation and documentation.

It should only be used as an absolute last resort to ensure the safety of the individual or others and even then, the least restrictive option should be used.

It is important to understand that some practices that were considered the norm a few decades ago are considered restrictive practice today. For example:

  • An individual not being able to leave their home due not to having a set of keys to the front door
  • Having guard rails on a bed to protect an individual from falling out but also restricting them from getting out of bed on their own
  • Covert medication administration, for example, putting medication in food without the individual’s knowledge
  • Strapping an individual into a wheelchair without their consent
  • Putting a seat belt on an individual in a car without their consent (although if they refused, it would be unlawful to drive them anywhere)

Before undertaking any action that may restrict an individual’s movement or liberties, even if it is for their own safety, you should ensure there is a legal and ethical justification, preferably in writing (e.g. DOLS, care plan etc.). It is also essential to protect the dignity of the individual by remaining calm and courteous and explaining what you are doing and why. Consent from the individual may also be required.

Some example of when restrictive practices may be justified include:

  • If an individual requires emergency medical treatment
  • If an individual is seriously harming themselves or others

In these cases, restrictive practices may only be used by individuals with proper training and as a last resort, when all other possible options have been exhausted.