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Guidance on reducing restraint in special schools and services

The Government yesterday published long-awaited guidance on reducing restraint and restrictive intervention for children and young people in England whose behaviour is distressed as a result of autism, learning disabilities or mental health difficulties. This guidance applies to special schools and to health and social care services for young people.

It does not apply to mainstream schools – but the Government has also announced that it is consulting on whether to produce similar guidance for mainstream schools, post-16 settings and alternative provision in England.

There are a number of key actions for schools and other settings, including:

  • Having a clear policy for meeting the needs of individual children and young people and understanding the causes of behaviour.
  • Knowing the law and having clear accountability arrangements for supporting children and for any use of restraint.
  • Involving children and their parents or carers in decisions relating to behaviour and the use of restraint.
  • Having sound measures in place for training and developing staff.
  • Recognising the impact on individuals of the environment they are in. This is particularly relevant to autistic children and young people, who may struggle with sensory overload or high levels of anxiety.

Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said:

This guidance is long overdue. Restraint and restrictive intervention should only ever be a last resort to prevent a child seriously harming themselves or the people around them. We welcome how clearly the guidance states that schools and other services should work to understand what a child’s needs are and why they may behave in particular ways if those needs aren’t understood and met.

Date added: 28 June 2019