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Monday 09 December 2019
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Reducing the use of restraint in schools and children’s homes through PBS - a story of success

The Witherslack Group provides high quality education and care for children and young people with special educational needs. We have a number of schools, children’s homes and integrated therapeutic provision that provide a service to over 700 children and young people aged 4-19. My session at the Restraint Reduction Network Conference will describe how we have worked with BILD to successfully reduce restrictive practices within our services, and introduce a culture of Positive Behaviour Support.

Our initial aims 

We wanted to test our current practice and change culture. There was to be a specific focus on the use of restraint, but we were also interested in challenging ourselves to reflect on some of our established practices, and really examine any form of restrictive practice with the aim of reducing their use across the organisation.

We were also keen to improve the skills and understanding of the staff teams around Positive Behaviour Support approaches, particularly in the areas of understanding functionality and post incident learning and support.

What Bild and the Witherslack Group did together 

In September 2015 BILD conducted a review across six Witherslack Group sites, the nature and format of the review and some of its main findings. Broadly, the review wanted to find out what elements of PBS were in place in the Witherslack Group to enable the reduction of the unnecessary use of restrictive practices – how effective they were and what could be improved or developed. 

Sites randomly selected for the review represented a range of existing provisions including a school, children’s homes and learning centres. All of the provisions support children with complex needs including social, emotional and mental health needs and children who are on the autistic spectrum.  

Following the review, we made a commitment to understanding and using PBS approaches. We were very focussed on doing, not just saying we were doing! An organisation strategy was developed and PBS principles become the ‘golden thread’ through all associated policies & procedures, underpinning practice changes. 

Challenges faced

We all know how hard it can be introducing any kind of change and the Witherslack Group PBS journey was no different! During the session these challenges will be outlined and the experiences of children and young people, staff and managers will be shared. This will include examples of what sort of obstacles and difficulties emerged and how they were ultimately overcome. 

Factors contributing to the success of the project

In the conference session we will talk about the essential ingredients that were needed for the successful implementation of PBS across the Witherslack Group. Examples such as the need to be clear about what you want to achieve, the courage to take some risks and how strong leadership is essential.  

What the impact has been 

We will talk about the impact on the Witherslack Group at both an organisational and individual service level. This will include discussions of the impact on individuals as well as individual settings. In the session individual case examples of the impact on children and young people and their families, the staff teams and senior managers will be shared. 

Next Steps

Due to only being approximately half way through out PBS journey there is still plenty to do! The session will outline the next steps to be taken and what the expected outcomes will be.

Richard Wilkins will be presenting at the Restraint Reduction Network Conference on 5 and 6 March in Birmingham. Find out more and book your place here >

31 January, 2018


Richard Wilkins

Richard Wilkins, Witherslack Group