An Appreciative Inquiry into Holding in Residential Child Care: Pilot Report

Laura Steckley, Lee Hollins, Sarah Deeley, Michael Bettencourt

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While there have long been serious concerns about the physical restraint of children in residential child care – including restraint related deaths, traumatisation or re-traumatisation for all involved and abuses of children’s rights (Steckley, 2018) – recently it appears that Scotland may be at a watershed moment in addressing this practice. In 2020, after listening to over 5,500 voices of those with experience of receiving or giving care in Scotland’s care system, the report of the Independent Care Review asserted, “Scotland must strive to become a nation that does not restrain its children” (p. 85). Restraint reduction has become a more significant focus in residential child care. This pilot study set out to identify and explore key factors in reducing or eliminating physical restraint, as well as in the successful holding, both metaphoric and literal, of children and young people in distress. It adopted an Appreciative Inquiry approach in two residential child care service sites in Scotland. It was funded by the School of Social Work and Social Policy in the University of Strathclyde, was approved by the University of Strathclyde’s Ethics Committee, and was carried out by Laura Steckley, Lee Hollins, Sarah Deeley and Michael Bettencourt.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2023


  • residential child care
  • physical restraint
  • children and young people in distress
  • appreciative inquiry (AI)


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