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Children and Young People: Restrictive Intervention

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 4:32 pm, 25th April 2019

I congratulate Norman Lamb on securing this debate. We have heard some truly excellent speeches from right hon. and hon. Members.

Like other Members, since I was first elected, I have been inundated with schooling issues. Those include parents trying to secure special educational needs assessments, or those whose children have been diagnosed with special educational needs but are not getting the help they need. There are schools that cannot afford to provide the help that is needed, and teachers who struggle to cope with the number of children who need more from them. I must have dealt with thousands of such cases over the years. The reason why is that education for children matters. It matters that children get the support they need to achieve a rounded education and that schools receive the funding they need to provide it. It matters that parents know that their children will get the best chance at life in the future, and that is critical to this debate.

With that in mind, it is little wonder that there are times when restrictive intervention is needed—an overworked teacher might be attempting to deal with a child who is misunderstood, frustrated and unable to bond with the teacher or classroom assistant as there are too many in the class. That frustration turns to violence, and the child is in danger of hurting themselves or someone nearby. In such cases, action is needed. However, there are limits on restraint, which must always be the last available option and fully considered.

Everyone who has spoken so far has referred to the need for training and resources and to the capability of the schooling system to respond to this issue. Teachers must have the knowledge and training on how and when other methods can be employed and, if there is no option, how to restrain safely. It is my belief that, due to a lack of guidance, there is a lot of confusion about the best and appropriate use. I join with colleagues in asking for that guidance to be released, as the guidance for restrictive intervention for adults has also been released.

Before the debate, I mentioned to the right hon. Member for North Norfolk that I was at a school before Christmas where a young fellow was “difficult”, shall we say? It took two teachers to supervise and restrain him, and a degree of violence did take place. I mention that to illustrate the need for schools to have the necessary teachers, training and resources. They did have that in that school and that was good to have.

I read a briefing supplied to me by one concerned body called the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, whose research has thrown up a few surprising statistics that are certainly worth quoting today. The main source of data is a “5 Live Investigates” freedom of information request to local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales that revealed 13,000 physical restraints over the previous three years, resulting in 731 injuries. Only a fifth of authorities replied, so the information presented might not be the whole picture. Another source of data was a survey conducted by the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. Some 88% of the 204 respondents said their disabled child had experienced physical restraint, with 35% reporting that it happened regularly. Some 71% of families who completed the survey said their child had experienced seclusion, with 21% reporting that it was taking place on a daily basis.

Those figures are challenging and they tell us the real story. I believe there is a better way to prevent these kinds of issues. Issuing guidance is certainly one step, but it is not the whole answer. Classrooms must have sufficiently trained staff members to deal with these scenarios without disrupting the other 29 children in a class. Children who need additional help need assessments, and those assessments must result in extra help and support. Parents must understand what is happening and be able to provide a helpful insight into the best ways to understand a child. There are so many factors, but the guidance that has been on the cards since 2014 must instead be off the cards and taken into schools urgently as the first step to ensuring that the education of every child is the best that it can be.