Department of Education inaction on unregulated seclusion and restraint practices endangers both children with disabilities and teachers

 

Inclusion Ireland and parents of children with a disability will today (26/09/2018) call on the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, to act urgently to regulate and reduce the practices of restraining and secluding children with disabilities in our schools.

A discussion document, ‘Shining a Light on Seclusion and Restraint in Schools in Ireland’, has been produced to share the stories of fourteen children with a disability, some as young as five years old. The document will be launched today at a seminar in Dublin. 

Parents of the 14 children were supported by Inclusion Ireland to come together to share their concerns. Their stories describe children being physically restrained, isolated or secluded by adults during the school day.

One parent describes how her child had their head held down between their knees for 20 minutes during a bus journey, another child was locked into an unattended room for up to five hours and another child was left unsupervised in seclusion for long periods despite a history of seizures.

Some of these parents will speak at the seminar and will be joined by representatives from children’s rights organisations, experts in positive behaviour supports, experts in reducing the need for restrictive practices and legal experts.

Inclusion Ireland is concerned that despite being asked by the National Council for Special Education on three occasions, the Department of Education has failed to provide best practice guidelines or to introduce reporting and monitoring protocols. In the absence of these the true extent of the current scale of the issue is unknown.

Paddy Connolly, CEO of Inclusion Ireland, said:

“The rights and welfare of children should be at the centre of all that happens in schools. On the issue of managing the use of seclusion and restraint, best practice includes support and training for staff, whole of school positive behaviour strategies, school leadership and external inputs such as child mental health or disability services.”

“It is unfair on teachers and a neglect of children’s developmental and welfare needs that the Department continues to ignore this issue. Seclusion and restraint should be a matter of last resort. It leaves teachers exposed, isolates parents and adversely impacts on the mental health and education of the children concerned.”

“We hope that today’s seminar will provide an opportunity for education professionals and parents to work together to pressurise the Minister and his Department to address the issue. Children have a Constitutional right to an education and for the children detailed in the discussion paper, and probably many more, their education is being restricted or in some cases removed entirely because of their disability.”

“Ireland’s record in relation to children with disabilities in general is shameful, whether it’s the disarray of the Assessment of Need system, their exclusion from Personalised Budgets or failures in the education system, its true to say that this Government is failing children with a disability.”

Inclusion Ireland recommendations:

• The Department of Education take steps to ensure that seclusion and restraint become a matter of last resort. 
• Measures are taken to include guidelines and monitoring to tightly prescribe the use of seclusion and restraint.
• Training to monitor, support and supervise staff using these restrictive practices.
• Ensure incidents of seclusion and restraint are recorded and report formally to the Department. 

Ends

Further Information

Inclusion Ireland
Inclusion Ireland is a national rights-based advocacy organisation that works to promote the rights of people with an intellectual disability. The organisation provides a central forum to identify priorities and formulate nationally agreed policies to present to government, statutory bodies, other relevant groups as well as the general public. Inclusion Ireland campaigns for changes in services and legislation that will improve the quality of life and participation of people with an intellectual disability in Irish society in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Shining a light on seclusion and restraint in schools in Ireland: the experience of children with disabilities and their families
The discussion paper to support the seminar can be viewed here.

Contact
Nyle Lennon, communications Officer, 086 837 3394