Unauthorised restrictive practices: interpreting data

Yesterday, reports in the media cited the NDIS Commission’s latest figures, including that over one million instances of unauthorised restrictive practices had taken place last year.

“Each use of a restrictive practice is an infringement on a person’s rights and should be treated seriously,” said Laurie Leigh, Interim CEO of National Disability Services.

“But there are dangers in attempting to oversimplify this complex issue by focusing exclusively on raw figures.”

About restrictive practices and reporting

Under the NDIS, there is a requirement to report each use of an unauthorised restrictive practice until a behaviour support specialist is available to prepare an approved plan. For example, if a person receives a medication that is considered a chemical restraint, and therefore a restrictive practice, three times a day for a week, 21 instances of unauthorised restrictive practice are to be reported.

“A restrictive practice may be in place, for example, to physically prevent a person walking into traffic or self-harming,” said Laurie Leigh. “The goal is to keep people safe and improve quality of life.

“The data informs us that registered providers are diligent in reporting when restrictive practices do occur.”

Restrictive practices should only be used as a last resort, where they are proportionate and justified, in order to protect the safety of the person or others.

When an unauthorised restrictive practice is used and is likely to be used again to keep people safe, providers must seek the development of a behaviour support plan. The situation is made more complex by a wide-spread lack of behaviour support practitioners, who must develop the plan.

The sector is committed to reducing and eliminating the use of restrictive practices wherever possible and this requires a well-trained team, working together. Ensuring providers are adequately funded to provide high quality, specific training to their staff for the use of positive, person-centred strategies, as well as other general quality training for staff may decrease the need for restrictive practices to be used.

NDS and our members support a goal of uniform legislation across Australia to reduce the compliance complexity. Consistent definitions and practices across jurisdictions for the approval of restrictive practices would also reduce confusion.

NDS has previously made a submission to the Disability Royal Commission on restrictive practices which addresses some of the complexities.

“We await with interest the NDIS Commission’s detailed analysis of the use of unauthorised restrictive practices and the provision of behaviour support plans, to better understand the data. NDS has previously argued that the NDIS Commission might play a more active educative role in this space,” said Laurie Leigh.

NDS actively promotes the safeguarding of the rights of people with disability, most notably through the support and training for disability service providers freely available via our Zero Tolerance initiative, which assists disability service providers to understand, implement and improve practices, which safeguard the rights of people they support.

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