Education providers should ensure that restraint is only used as a last resort, to prevent harm, with the minimum necessary force, and for the minimum necessary time, according to new draft guidance from the Scottish government.

The draft guidance forms the third part of the Included, Engaged and Involved guidance series and replaces the existing guidance. Its purpose is to improve child or young person’s learning experiences by outlining best practice in:

  • Promoting positive relationships, behaviour and wellbeing
  • Minimising the use of restraint and seclusion and eliminating their misuse
  • Ensuring children and young people’s rights are understood, respected and taken account of in all decisions around the use of physical intervention.

It also includes new definitions, human rights-based safeguards and recording, reporting and monitoring expectations.

The guidance focuses on preventative support that should be in place to minimise the use of restraint and provides advice and safeguards that must be followed if restraint is used. It also outlines forms of restraint that should never be used on children and young people.

Physical Intervention Working Group

The Scottish Government established the Physical Intervention Working Group to develop new human rights-based guidance. This was in response to concerns raised about the use of restraint and seclusion in schools in the Children and Young People Commissioner’s 2018 report, No Safe Place, and the subsequent ENABLE Scotland In Safe Hands report.

The advice offered aligns with international and domestic law and standards, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.

The human-rights based guidance has been developed with input from young people, parents, carers, education staff and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

Use of restraint in children with SEND

It is recognised that for some children and young people, particularly those with complex additional support needs, some forms of physical intervention can play an important role in supporting their physical wellbeing.

Examples include the provision of postural support, headrests and the use of moving and handling equipment such as hoists and mobility aids. In such cases, the form of physical intervention should be part of an agreed plan and efforts should focus on ensuring its use is always safe, proportionate and non-discriminatory, rather than preventing its use. 

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The draft guidance makes it clear that restraint and seclusion should only ever be used as a last resort and when in the best interests of the child or young person.

“The guidance has been developed carefully, over time, with extensive input from over 30 working group members. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this important area, including children and young people themselves, to give their views by taking part in the consultation.

“In addition to the publication of non-statutory guidance, we will explore options to strengthen the legal framework in this area, including placing the guidance on a statutory basis.”  

The Scottish government will produce a report of the consultation responses and, with the Physical Intervention Working Group, will agree any changes to be made to the guidance prior to its final publication later in the year. A full consultation report, outlining actions taken, will be published on the Scottish Government’s website.

Views are now being sought on the new guidance here.