A different way to look after children


Aberlour started to look at how its staff were using physical restraint on children in 2017.

Recognising that challenging behaviour was most likely to be children communicating distress, anxiety or fear, and that use of physical restraint was traumatic and created a risk of harm for the children and adults involved, the organisation decided that there had to be a different way to look after the children in its residential houses.

In consultation with children and young people in residential houses and the adults looking after them, Aberlour has developed alternative ways of handling distress and has drastically reduced the use of restraint.

John Ryan, Assistant Director says: “We had conversations with children who said they didn’t like being restrained and the adults didn’t like restraining them”.

Introducing a clinical psychologist, changing the culture to help staff understand children’s rights and understanding what a relationship-based approach could look like has enabled Aberlour to develop different ways to look after the children in its houses.

John continues: “The children are noticing that when they are distressed the adults will be patient and they will understand how to help them. We can’t change the past but we can create better ways of doing things.”

The results speak for themselves – in 2018 the organisation used restraint 68 times in residential houses for children aged 8-18 years. This year to date restraint has been used twice.

Aberlour is now working in partnership with Kibble, which provides residential and secure care, to review and learn from restraint processes. The funding, made by the Corra Foundation, will see Aberlour and Kibble work with four partners to help them develop their own blueprint for success to help them keep the Promise that Scotland is a nation that does not restrain its children.

John Ryan has been quoted from an article in The National about Reduction in Restraint on 19th December 2021. For more information read here.