The restraint review: a blog by Dame Christine Lenehan DBE









It is with sadness and frustration that I read the CQC report ‘Out of Sight, Who Cares?’

I feel sadness because the circumstances the children and families find themselves in is unacceptable. How is it that we continue to have a system that believes the fundamental rights of disabled children don’t matter? This is a system where restraint (whether physical, medical or chemical) can still be used on the child because we, the professionals, don’t understand the best way of caring for them.

I feel frustration partly because none of it is new. My own 2017 report, ‘These are our children’, exposed similar challenges and numerous of others have done the same. I have spent the last few years working with dedicated professionals in health, education and care. I have worked with incredible people in the voluntary and statutory sectors and with brilliant parents and amazing young people trying to move towards solution. I have spent hours in committees, meetings and earnest discussions and always believed change was possible.

Occasionally there are victories, small instances where new ideas, new money, and new ways of working have made a difference to a child’s life. However, the fundamental challenges have remained. I think some of it is political - there is always a bigger agenda, a bigger priority. I think some of it is cultural - there is a belief that these children and young people are too complicated to lead normal lives. We know that’s not true. As always with disabled children, there is an easy default to talk about individual tragedy rather than corporate responsibility.

It really has to be time for change and I would urge the government to accept two of the key recommendations judged outside the scope of this inquiry. They are:

  • The government should consider a cross departmental review of restrictive practice for children with special educational needs and disabilities, including schools and anywhere children are living away from home; 
  • DfE should ensure that there is a clear definition of restrictive practices, including the use of restraint, segregation and seclusion in educational settings and children’s service

Abusing children is wrong. It’s time to end state endorsed abuse of children once and for all.