Physical restraint in residential child care

Understanding the complexities of physical restraint

Following on from Dr Laura Steckley of the University of Strathclyde's plenary at the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care (SIRCC) Conference in 2019 on physical restraint in residential child care, a Scottish Physical Restraint Action Group (SPRAG) was formed to continue the discussion and plan a way forward for Scotland. CELCIS published a series of blog posts from different perspectives, including how young people felt. These can be read by clicking the links on this page.

This video below was filmed as an update on the work of SPRAG, for SIRCC 2022.


In the video below, produced for SIRCC 2020 online, Dr Laura Steckley discusses the complexities of physical restraint.


CELCIS hosted a series of blog posts discussing the challenging and complex subject of physical restrain in residential child care.

A current focus and conversation around physical restraint on the political agenda/radar,  in the media, and in social media, stimulated the original interest in having a plenary presentation session at the SIRCC Conference in June 2019.

The plenary was presented by Dr Laura Steckley, a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde. The plenary aimed to:

  • facilitate consideration of physical restraint from multiple perspectives, including care leavers, direct practitioners, close-in managers, external managers, care inspectors
  • help audience members hold some of the complexities around the practice of physical restraint in a meaningful way that aids understanding
  • energise a collective will that turns into a collective endeavour to reduce and where possible eliminate physical restraint in residential child care establishments; and where physical restraints do occur, to increase the likelihood that they are experienced as an act of care rather than brutality

Since the presentation, a group of individuals has come together and formed the Scottish Physical Restraint Action Group. This Group, made up of people with care experience, practitioners, leaders, managers, policy leads and university colleagues, is examining what is happening now, what else needs to be known, and what else needs to happen in children's houses, services, policies, and wider systems to ensure the eradication of the harm caused by physical restraint. 

CELCIS hosted a series of blog posts over a three-week period in October 2019, to stimulate debate, giving voice to care experienced people and those working in residential child care. The blog posts by no means covered all perspectives of the conversation, and more voices need to be heard. We've gathered all the blog posts here, in one place.

The blog posts

Safeguarding warning

In these video updates, viewers are asked where possible, to be aware that physical restraint is an emotive subject some of the content of these videos may be difficult to watch.

Graphic text - We need to talk about physical restraint
Graphic text - Physical restraint in residential child care: A watershed moment?
Graphic text - Should our young people be experiencing physical restraint at any level?
Graphic text - Unintended consrquences: Restrtaint and the criminalisation of looked after children
A graphic promoting a blog by Erica Barr
Graphic text - Why didn't you restrain me? When physical restraint can meet a child's need
A graphic promoting a blog by Joe Gibb
There is no place for physical restraint in residential child care
Graphic text - 2019, a year of real opportunity in Residential Child Care
Turning conversation into action

Laura Steckley's presentation

This presentation was first delivered as a plenary session at the SIRCC Conference in 2019. The original presentation contained audio clips of care experienced people and care workers. These have been removed to safeguard all those involved.

Further information

If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved with the Group, please email, putting 'Scottish Physical Restraint Action Group' in the subject line, or you can continue the discussion by commenting on any of the blogs.