Mar 15, 2021 (UK) NI, Belfast Live: NI special needs families respond to 'tell-all' survey about school restraint and seclusion https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/ni-special-needs-families-respond-20155483
Families who claim their children have been forcibly restrained or secluded in special schools are revealing their concerns in a tell-all survey. Disturbing detail about injuries and incidents claimed to have occurred in some of Northern Ireland’s most trusted establishments, are now being collated ahead of an official review of practices…. Mr Lyttle who was present at a recent Education Committee hearing on restrictive practice, seclusion and restraint in Northern Ireland’s schools, said: “It is the families who have the lived experience who are the expert witnesses. … “These families need and deserve support and I am focused on doing everything in my power to do the right thing by them. To hear Deidre Shakespeare in committee explain her feelings about her son Harry’s experience was distressing and disturbing and her work at ICARS has been remarkable. …” Ms Hilton called on Chris Lyttle to act and announced she was backing the ICARS parents and PABBS, working to create fitting legislation on restraint and seclusion to be adhered to in all Northern Ireland schools. Mr Lyttle said: “I was shocked to hear that Paris Hilton had suffered enforced seclusion as a child. It was hard to contemplate the effect she says it’s had on her and then think of the effect restraint and seclusion could have on a child with special needs. “I think most people now understand the pressures of lockdown, but families whose loved one has special or additional needs were left high and dry when the special schools closed down during the Covid crisis. “This just should not happen in our society. Children with special needs are surely some of the most vulnerable in our society and it is our duty, and should be our privilege, to protect them.” Parents from across Northern Ireland have been responding to the ICARS survey and a spokeswoman said the details revealed are deeply concerning. She said: "The more evidence we can collect, the more likely we are to create change. In Northern Ireland Ireland there is no legal requirement for schools to tell a parent if they have restrained or secluded their child whilst at school. "And Children with SEND are disproportionately affected by the use of restraint and seclusion in school, as a response to distressed or 'challenging' behaviour. "We hope this survey will be able to be submitted as evidence of human rights violations and highlight the lived experience of children and young people in Northern Ireland schools. "Details, reports and evidence provided by families will be collated into a report that can then be shared to inform the lived experience of children and young people around the use of restraint and seclusion. "Our plan to is change the law, to protect the vulnerable and weed out those who do not agree all children should enjoy equal protection under the law no matter what challenges they're dealing with." … During the committee meeting, his colleague Julie Humphries was heard to refer to recording of restraint and seclusion incidents in schools, and advise Mr Irwin: "We don't want it to be mandatory." But Mr Lyttle, who backs the drive for #HarrysLaw, the removal of forced restraints and seclusion, says recording in a uniform manner and timely manner should be made mandatory and is is working with parent action groups, ICARS on the push for legislative change. … Refering to Julie Humphries' comment that the Department of Education did not want the recording of restraint and seclusion incidents to be made mandatory, a spokeswoman for the department said: “Officials are considering the issues of restraint and seclusion, in partnership with stakeholders. To take this forward the Department has set up a Working Group which has met on 4 occasions, with further meetings scheduled. Membership includes Departmental policy officials, the Education and Training Inspectorate, the Education Authority, and officials from the Departments of Health and Justice. The Working Group will examine: • current legislation, policies, guidance and training; • current practices, including local audits or reports, work-in-progress in this area across other similar jurisdictions, research reports and evidence of best practice, • current recording, monitoring and follow-up processes; and • complaints in the area and issues arising to identify weaknesses in existing guidance and areas for action.