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Legal frameworks for the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care

The use of restrictive practices to manage challenging behaviours in the aged care and disability sectors is a key human rights issue in Australia. Different types of restrictive practices are used in disability accommodation and support services, residential aged care services, mental health services and prisons.

Common types of restrictive practices include:

  • detention (e.g. locking a person in a room indefinitely)
  • seclusion (e.g. locking a person in a room for a limited period of time)
  • physical restraint (e.g. clasping a person’s hands or feet to stop them from moving)
  • mechanical restraint (e.g. tying a person to a chair or bed)
  • chemical restraint (e.g. giving a person a sedative)
  • electronic restraint (e.g. using tracking bracelets, camera surveillance, restrictions on media devices).

The inappropriate use of restrictive practices is concerning because it can cause physical and psychological harm to the person being restricted. It can constitute a breach of law and human rights.

The Public Advocate has published a paper - Legal frameworks for the use of restrictive practices in aged care: An analysis of Australian and international jurisdictions - which examines the existing laws, policies and practices in Australia and other international jurisdictions. It identifies the legislation (including regulations and standards), case law, and other mechanisms that make up the regulatory frameworks for the use of restrictive practices.

There is an urgent need to clarify the legality of the use of restrictive practise in the Australian aged care system because current laws do not regulate the use of restrictive practices in residential aged care facilities.

The Public Advocate has issued a media release calling on the federal government to end the unregulated use of restraints and other restrictive practices in residential aged care.

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Last reviewed
15 June 2017
Last updated
15 June 2017

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