BIHR was delighted to work with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) on their new films aiming to break the taboo around discussing the use of restraint in social care. The films explore the human rights of people receiving health and care services who are having their movement restricted, and this is against their will, or because they do not have the capacity to object.

The films, including contributions from BIHR’s Deputy Director Sanchita Hosali, explain that restraint is not always a bad thing, it may sometimes be necessary, but it must always be delivered in a way that respects people’s human rights, as protected under the Human Rights Act. Over the last decade BIHR has been working with health and social care partners to help develop human rights approaches. Our work shows the practical value of such an approach, helping to transform the way services are delivered, to help staff make everyday decisions, and empower service-users.


The Mental Capacity Act 2005, was developed in response to a human rights protection gap for people with capacity issues. Although this link is often forgotten, it is vital it is re-established, helping to inform staff practice and service-users experiences of care. The MCA says restraint should only be used as a last resort and only when other options have been eliminated; and that its use must always be minimized. This means using a person-centred approach and putting people who use services at the centre of decisions about their care, something also required by the right to private and family life under the Human Rights Act. Ultimately, a human rights approach to restraint is not just about meeting legal obligations under the HRA, it is also about improving the experience of care for staff and service users.


SCIE’s Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, says:

“Sometimes, restraint is appropriate and it can, at times, be the best option for service users; for example, in helping someone to become calm and exercise self-control. However, this can’t be an excuse for using restraint whenever things get challenging. People’s human rights must be respected – their views must be put at the centre of decisions about their health. This is key to good outcomes and experiences. The need for restraint has to be reassessed on each and every occasion as people’s needs and capacity change. Also, a good way to minimise restraint is to keep talking with colleagues, carers, families and people who use services.”


Director of BIHR, Stephen Bowen, says:

 “We welcome this important new resource, which shows that we never have to simply make a choice between respecting human rights and restraint. This film demonstrates that human rights are a helping hand for staff when making difficult decisions about restraint, helping them keep patients and service users at the heart of decision making.


Royal College of Nursing’s professional lead for mental health, Ian Hulatt, says:

    “Working with clients who become distressed and then misinterpret the actions of those caring for them, can be extremely challenging. This resource considers how best to care for people who may require an intervention to restrict their movements, in their’s and others’ best interests. The use of case studies and worked examples will help carers to consider their practice in the light of recent guidance and thinking.”

Watch the films: