Physical Intervention Working Group - Definitions sub group minutes: July 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the sub-group on 15 July 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Scottish Government
  • CALM Training
  • Westwater Advocates
  • Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland
  • South Lanarkshire Council
  • BILD
  • Educational Institute of Scotland

The following members sent their apologies for the conference call:

  • First-tier Tribunal, Health and Education Chamber
  • Stirling Council
  • Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Scottish Government welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Definitions Sub Group.

Revised definitions

The Scottish Government introduced a paper, circulated in advance, outlining the revised definitions for physical intervention, restraint and seclusion. The Group discussed each of the definitions in turn.

Physical intervention

The Group discussed the proposed use of the term to cover both restrictive interventions, such as restraint, and low level assistance, de-escalation and consensual interventions, such as voluntary withdrawal. It is important to explain this clearly in the guidance to avoid any ambiguity. 

The Group agreed that the draft wording should be passed to the Guidance Sub Group as a working definition, the final wording of which is to agreed once set in the context of the wider guidance. 


The draft definition, an adoption of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s Framework for Restraint definition, was considered helpful. The Group agreed to use this definition in the guidance. This wording will therefore be passed to the Guidance Sub Group. 

Specific forms of restraint (for example: physical, mechanical, chemical) will be developed by the Guidance Sub Group, based on existing examples. This will include seclusion. 


The Group discussed the distinction between an act which restricts movement and one which would constitute a deprivation of liberty and the connection between the two. It is important that the definition used in the guidance clearly describes seclusion and confirms the legal position around its use in education settings. The Group discussed whether a clear enough distinction is made between the purpose of seclusion, as worded, and possible justifications for use.  

The Group agreed that the draft wording should be passed to the Guidance Sub Group as a working definition, the final wording of which will be agreed once set in the context of the wider guidance. 

General comments

The Group agreed that legal advice should be sought on all three definitions. The Scottish Government will take this forward.

The Group also considered it important that the guidance clearly outlines the positive practices that should be encouraged and those that should be reduced. The practitioner relatable structure of Holding Safely was considered to be a useful comparator in this regard. 

Next steps

The three definitions will be passed to the Guidance Sub Group to allow the drafting stage of the guidance development process to begin. 

The Group agreed that the wider comments and suggestions made during the detailed consideration of the definitions (for defining various types of restraint and seclusion, the context in which they should be considered, use of clarifying examples or case studies) will be passed on to the Guidance Sub Group to assist with the drafting stage. 

Date of next meeting

The Group agreed to meet should the Guidance Sub Group refer the wording of any further definitions, or the final definitions of physical intervention and seclusion, to them once the necessary context has been drafted. 

Scottish Government
July 2020

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