A man's wrists bound together by a length of rope representing restrictive practice

Describe what constitutes restrictive practices

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

Restrictive practice refers to a range of methods that may be used to restrain and 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.

Many care workers will not need to use restrictive practices in their day-to-day work, although it is important to understand that some fairly innocuous practices that were considered the norm a few decades ago are considered restrictive today. For example:

  • An individual not being able to leave their home due not 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 seatbelt on an individual in a car

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. In some cases, consent from the individual will also be required.