On Friday 3 November MPs will debate on a private members bill, dubbed “Seni’s Law”, to make people who use force in mental health units, including face-down restraint and chemical restraint, more accountable.
BILD very much supports MP Steve Reed’s work to introduce the Use of Force (Seni’s Law) Bill. However, there is a strong case for this Bill to have a broader remit to cover the use of force with other vulnerable people, such as those with learning disabilities or autism.
There is an over-reliance on restrictive practices in services for adults and children with learning disabilities and/or autism (as was highlighted in the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Under Lock and Key’). This can happen in hospital settings, social care settings, education, and sometimes within their own homes.
Other restrictive practices like seclusion and medication are also used to manage behaviours that carers or teachers find difficult to deal with. These methods are not only likely to cause both physical and emotional distress and put relationship with carers at risk, but they also don’t get to the reason why the behaviour was displayed in the first place.
The most recent data available from the Learning Disability Census in 2015 shows 56% of people with learning disabilities (specialist care inpatients only) experienced one or more incidents (self-harm, accidents, physical assault, restraint or seclusion) in the three months prior to census day. This figure has remained fairly consistent since 2013. In special schools the use of physical restraint and seclusion is at a concerning level – with restraint being a daily occurrence for some children (as highlighted in the recent BBC 5 Live Investigates documentary).
If restrictive methods are in place, there must also be a plan of how to reduce the use of and reliance on these methods. Using the methods alone will not have a positive effect on people’s behaviour or support or any long term improvements to quality of life. Too many services blame the vulnerable person for their behaviour and rely on restraint to manage these incidents. Effectively we punish vulnerable people when we fail to meet their needs. Such treatment is not in line with the UN Convention of Human Rights.
We strongly support the proposal that services must publish their data relating to the use Physical Intervention, and their plan to reduce reliance on restrictive practices. We also support the proposal that all staff must receive appropriate levels of de-escalation training in advance of receiving training in physical intervention. In addition BILD strongly believes that all Physical Intervention training should be subject to external accreditation and scrutiny.