Australian study finds routine use of restraint on people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour

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This Australian study set out to look at the use of restraints and seclusion as responses to people with learning disabilities with behaviour described as challenging. The authors point out that the prevalence rate of such restrictive practices is difficult to agree as previous studies have not used population-level data.

They used data on the population of the State of Victoria in Australia over a 12-month period and identified that the majority of people included in the study were subjected to chemical restraint. Despite clear policy to the contrary, it was found that restraint was used routinely rather than a strategy of last resort. Some characteristics of individuals made it more likely that restrictive interventions would be used, for example, being young and male, having multiple disabilities or being on the autism spectrum. The authors point out that these findings are consistent with those in UK studies.

They conclude from the study that “systemic policy and procedural developments are needed to address current use of restrictive interventions, together with a longitudinal study to evaluate the effectiveness, of alternative, non-restrictive strategies.”

Restrictive Interventions for People with a Disability Exhibiting Challenging Behaviours: Analysis of a Population Database, Webber L et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 495–507

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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