Disability Royal Commission turns its eyes to the impact of restrictive practices

Posted 3 years ago by Rebecca St Clair

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is once more seeking input from people with disability, this time they want to hear from people about the use and impact of restrictive practices on people with disability.

The Chair of the Commission Ronald Sackville AO QC says that restrictive practices are a key area of inquiry for the Royal Commission.

“We are asking for information about when, where, how and why restrictive practices are used on people with disability,” says Mr Sackville.

Restrictive practice refers to any action that limits the rights or freedom of movement of a person and can include the use of physical restraints such as holding a person down on the ground, or the use of medication to sedate a person.

It can also include the use of mechanical restraints such as tying a student to a chair in a classroom, disconnecting the power of an electric wheelchair or taking a person’s communication device away from them.

Other examples of restrictive practice are: 

  • Seclusion, where a person is confined to a physical space and prevented from leaving. An example is locking a person in a room for a set period of time.

  • Environmental restraint, for example, locking a garden area or fridge in a group home to stop people accessing it.

  • Psychosocial restraint, for example, continually telling a person that doing an everyday activity is too dangerous, without reasonable justification.

According to the issue paper, some consider the use of restrictive practice to be a ‘disability-specific’ form of violence, which the Commission wants to understand and avoid in the future. 

However, the Commission acknowledged that although many people with disability as well as representative and advocacy organisations argue against the use of restrictive practices, others consider that sometimes they are needed, as a last resort, to protect people from harm or from harming others.

Mr Sackville adds that the Commission is also interested not just in the how and why of restrictive practice but the effects on people with disability and the laws that surround the use of them.  

Mr Sackville says, “We want to hear about the effects of restrictive practices, which we know, can cause physical injury, psychological harm and may even cause death.

“We want to hear about how the use of restrictive practices can be avoided, and hear about alternative measures and strategies.

“We are also interested in understanding how laws and policies around restrictive practices can be improved.”

The issues paper has already outlined some of the effects of restrictive practice, including severe physical injury, psychological harm and death. 

They also say that restrictive practices have the potential to increase power imbalances and feelings of helplessness and lead to a loss of independence for people with disability.   

The Royal Commission would like responses by 28 August 2020. Submissions can be provided by:

• Email to [email protected]                                                                          

• Post to GPO Box 1422, BRISBANE QLD 4001

• Phone on 1800 517 199 or +61 7 3734 1900 (between 9:00am to 5:00pm AEST Monday to Friday). 

Responses can be in writing, an audio recording or a video recording. Responses can be in any language. 

What are your thoughts about the use of restrictive practices? Tell us in the comments section below or send an email yo [email protected]