This week we have witnessed news of two residential services, Cranmore and Stepping Stones in Kent, that have been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission. Amongst the service failings were a heavy reliance on Blanket Restrictions.
Blanket restrictions are a little talked about form of restrictive practice. Often, we spend much time focusing on ‘bigger’, more obvious forms of restrictive practice such as restraint and seclusion. However, whilst seemingly benign, unjustified blanket restrictions are pernicious and breach people’s human rights.
So, what are they? A blanket restriction is a rule applied to everybody in a service without individual justification. For example, in Cranmore and Stepping Stones the staff decided to ban curtains, toilet paper, access to the kitchen and magazines.
The Restraint Reduction Network (RRN) has recently completed a consultation on blanket restrictions. We found that they have the capacity to cause immeasurable long-term harm and damage to the people subjected to them and their families.
As part of our work in this area, we have heard distressing stories. One man was disallowed access to the toilet whilst being detained in inpatient care and is sadly still asking his family if he can use the toilet five years after his discharge. Another mother has three pictures of her son in seven years as cameras were not permitted in his service. And another young adult remains so scared of regular household items that she would rather not have anything in her room.
We know that services that rely on blanket restrictions are often the most institutionalised and least person centred. Reflecting back on Cranmore and Stepping Stones the blanket restrictions formed part of an abusive culture where autistic people and people with learning disabilities were spoken of in a derogatory way, subject to unlawful restraint and restrictive practices. Fundamentally, they were restricted from leading any kind of ‘normal’ life.
Unjustified blanket restrictions are a human rights issue in the same way that restraint and seclusion are. They have far reaching consequences. We must not discount their impact and we must pay attention to the long-lasting consequences which can result from their inappropriate and unjustifiable application.
For further information on Blanket Restrictions – what they are and how we can address their use in our systems – watch our new video at: https://vimeo.com/544935885
Alexis Quinn is the Restraint Reduction Network Manager / Coordinator, Autism campaigner, activist and international speaker. She is the author of Unbroken, which tells her story of being detained under the mental health act against her will, and the harmful restrictive practices to which she was subjected. She now writes about her experience and campaigns for systematic change to stop abusive practices, promote neurodiversity and end the stigma surrounding mental health.
To find out more about the Restraint Reduction Network, please visit: www.restraintreductionnetwork.org or join the debate @theRRNetwork