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Restrictive practices in disability services

The use of restrictive practices to manage challenging behaviours in disability care, residential aged care, and hospitals and health care facilities, is a key human rights issue in Australia.

The use of any restrictive practice affects the human rights of the person involved. Without proper authorisation, the use of a restrictive practice may be an offence against the person on whom it is used. Under criminal law, restrictive practices may amount to an assault or an unlawful deprivation of liberty.

Common types of restrictive practices include:

  • Detention (e.g. locking a person in a room indefinitely)
  • Seclusion (e.g. locking a person alone 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).

While there is a legal framework for the authorisation of restrictive practices in disability service settings across Queensland, this framework does not extend to settings like residential aged care and health facilities. There are also elements of this framework that do not align with the requirements of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

The Public Advocate has recently released a restrictive practices reform options paper for Queensland, which proposes the use of a senior practitioner authorisation model across all settings in Queensland.

You can read this paper here.