What is a ‘physical intervention’?

In the context of violence and aggression, a physical intervention refers to any method of physical response whereby physical force of some kind is used and which is designed to prevent, halt or restrict the movement or actions of the person(s) concerned.

The term ‘physical intervention’ is, therefore, an over-arching term encompassing a range of different approaches. It is important to note that the term is not synonymous with physical restraint. Thus, the physical guiding of a person from one place to another is a method of physical intervention although it is not a restraint.

The terminology used is largely setting-specific. For example, although the term ‘control and restraint’ is widely used to describe certain systems of restraint techniques it is not synonymous with the process of physical restraint in general. Properly used, the term ‘control and restraint’ refers only to those approaches to the physical management of violence and aggression that are derived from the original version developed by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

Other types of physical intervention include ‘restraint’ which occurs whenever a person has his or her movements physically restricted by the intentional use of force by another. Restraint can either be partial, whereby a specific movement is restricted, or it can be total, where the person is substantially immobilised. Restraint, for the purpose of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, is defined under section 6 (4) of the Act as using, or threatening to use, force to secure the doing of an act which the person resists, or restricting the person’s liberty of movement, whether or not he resists.

‘Holding’ is another form of physical intervention and is often distinguished from restraining by the degree of force used and the intention of the person carrying out the holding or restraining. It is often regarded as the least invasive form of physical intervention and is often seen in settings involving children, the elderly or persons with learning disabilities.

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