Restraint in social care: What to consider

12 March 2015

The importance of open dialogue about the use of restraint in social care

Two new films from SCIE

The term ‘restraint’ can continue to carry a negative connotation. It often conjures up disturbing images of people being restricted in movement, against their will, with their human rights affected and even abused.

Two new films about the subject, from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), aim to break the taboo that can exist for some people working in social care, who might be nervous about discussing the use of restraint. The films also explore when restraint is necessary and the challenges surrounding the issue.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides guidance about the use of restraint. SCIE say it’s crucial that staff working in health and social care are aware of just what ‘restraint’ means. The Mental Capacity Act says that restraint should only be used as a last resort and only when other options have been eliminated; and that its use must always be minimized. It means using a person-centred approach and putting people who use services at the centre of decisions about their care. This can help minimize the use of restraint.

SCIE’s Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, says:

Sometimes, restraint is appropriate and it can, at times, be the best option for service users; for example, in helping someone to become calm and exercise self-control. However, this can’t be an excuse for using restraint whenever things get challenging. People’s human rights must be respected – their views must be put at the centre of decisions about their health. This is key to good outcomes and experiences. The need for restraint has to be reassessed on each and every occasion as people’s needs and capacity change. Also, a good way to minimise restraint is to keep talking with colleagues, carers, families and people who use services.”

Director of British Institute for Human Rights, Stephen Bowen, says:

We welcome this important new resource, which shows that we never have to simply make a choice between respecting human rights and restraint. This film demonstrates that human rights are a helping hand for staff when making difficult decisions about restraint, helping them keep patients and service users at the heart of decision making.

Royal College of Nursing’s professional lead for mental health, Ian Hulatt, says:

Working with clients who become distressed and then misinterpret the actions of those caring for them, can be extremely challenging. This resource considers how best to care for people who may require an intervention to restrict their movements, in their’s and others’ best interests. The use of case studies and worked examples will help carers to consider their practice in the light of recent guidance and thinking.

Film one. Restraint : a human rights issue

In this film SCIE examines how good practice in health and social care needs to take account of people’s human rights. Using a person-centred approach, by putting people at the centre of decisions about their care, can minimise restraint. It explores the definition of ‘restraint’ in all capacity and talks about best practice within the sector.

Film two: Practical approaches to minimising restraint

In this film we look at two examples of minimising restraint. We meet Peter, who is living in a care home. Peter has a urinary tract infection. A common side effect of such infections is confusion, which is made worse by Peter's dementia. In the second story we meet Florence, who is in in her 80's. She developed a chest infection and had been admitted to hospital in a confused state.

By embedding a human rights approach to care services, we can minimize the use of restraint. The film says it can be easy to focus too much on the procedural aspects of keeping people safe which, although vital, aren’t the only thing about good quality care. It says we should always remember to keep sight of our humanity in providing care and support.

Who will find these films useful?

  • Care providers
  • Registered managers
  • Care staff
  • Nursing staff
  • Front line practitioners
  • Social workers and social work students
  • Student nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Carers
  • People who use services.

Relevant weblinks

Media Contact

Steve Palmer, Press and Public Affairs Manager
Tel: 020 7766 7419 | Mob: 07739 458 192 | Email: steve.palmer@scie.org.uk