Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


Applied Social Studies

First Advisor

Prof Margaret Linehan

Second Advisor

Ms Sandra Conroy


Restrictive practices “are an infringement of a person’s fundamental rights to personal liberty and bodily integrity” (Health Information and Quality Authority, 2019, p.1). The most recent study in Ireland, found 23% of the 627 inspection reports by HIQA, human-right were violated by the use of restrictive practices (Murphy and Bantry- White, 2021). It is recognised that the core function of restrictive practices is to stop, or prevent, an individual from doing something they wish to do, in such a way that manages challenging behaviour outbursts, and provides safety for both staff and service users (Nankervis and Chan, 2021). The uncertain nature surrounding the definition of the term restrictive practices was evident in current literature, and gaps identified from previous literature provided the rationale for this research, such as the justification for the use of restrictive practices. This study seeks to investigate the use and implementation of restrictive practices and associated terminology within services for adults with an intellectual disability from the perspectives of professionals and considers how intellectual disability services may charter a least restrictive environment. This research study is representative of organisations in Ireland who cater for people with intellectual disabilities. This research uses a qualitative methodology to gather perspectives of professionals regarding restrictive practices in services for adults with an intellectual disability. Interviews were conducted with health and social care professionals employed in services for adults with an intellectual disability. The findings suggest that restrictive practices are necessary within intellectual disability services for adults, regardless of the negative connotations associated with their use, for the primary purpose of ensuring the physical safety of staff and service users. A stark finding of this research revealed current training does not reflect the needs of staff managing challenging behaviours, as staff often choose to use their own initiative rather than trainings provided when implementing restrictive practices. Furthermore, the findings revealed that staff shortages and insufficient training, often lead to an increased use of restrictive practices. Arising from current research, some practical recommendations are highlighted such as: effective evaluation of trainings regarding restrictive practices and challenging behaviours and, further suggest a policy be implemented by HIQA, regarding the ratio of service user to staff.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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