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5.5.3 A Positive Approach to Working with Looked After Children


This policy is intended to support:

  • The provision of dignified, individualised services to Looked After Children;
  • The participation of the children/young people;
  • The protection of Looked After children;
  • And to incorporate the ethos of Team Teach guidelines for positive handling

by providing guidance regarding positive approaches to setting boundaries, managing behaviour, and keeping people safe. The policy is designed to help workers to achieve the above objectives.


Children’s Homes Regulations and Quality Standards 2015


In June 2022, a link to Guidance: Positive Environments Where Children Can Flourish (Ofsted) was added into Section 7, Further Information.


  1. Introduction
  2. Administrative Requirements
  3. Positive Interventions/Approved Sanctions
  4. Unacceptable Sanctions
  5. Unauthorised Absences
  6. Restrictive Physical Intervention
  7. Further Information

    Appendix 1: Help Scripts

    Appendix 2: Positive Handling Plan

    Appendix 3: Discussion Record

    Appendix 4: Procedure Persistent Missing Persons

    Appendix 5 : DHSC Guidance ‘Interventions To Maintain Control’

1. Introduction

Caption: Introduction
1.1 Positive behaviour is more likely to be maintained where children and young people are normally involved in decision making about their care and where carers maintain positive, open and accepting relationships with them. It is important for staff to respect, encourage and support children/young people to participate, consult, make informed choices and agree boundaries where necessary.
1.2 Such positive relationships between children, young people and their carers offer the security and stability from which they can explore and mature.
1.3 It is important to recognise the positive effects of praise and encouragement and the power of positive reinforcement. The identification and creation of opportunities for children and young people to experience success and to receive praise and encouragement for their achievements, however small, is important in forming purposeful trusting relationships. It is the policy of this department that every opportunity to praise and encourage young people to repeat acceptable behaviour, however small, should be taken.
1.4 Some children and young people are unable to, or will resist forming good relationships. This could result in children/young people presenting behaviour that may challenge staff. There are many reasons for this. Examples include - Looked After children may find it difficult to develop such relationships because their low self esteem cannot allow them to enjoy such relationships; medical reasons such as mental ill health, which can cause barriers to effective communication; or it could be linked to their disability.
1.5 Children and young people need to know the boundaries of acceptable behaviour of themselves and carers. Communicating boundaries is an integral part of caring and of creating a safe living environment for those Looked After and their carers. There is a need for diversion, reassurance, clear limits, boundaries and choices.



Staff Code of Conduct

  1.5.2 This document is intended to communicate the philosophy and policy of the department in respect of the professional practice expectations upon carers looking after young people.
  1.5.3 Any member of staff who administers sanctions of an unacceptable nature, will be asked to account for his/her actions. On any occasion where this occurs or is alleged to have occurred, the Service Manager/Registered Manager must investigate the matter and discuss their finding of the incident with the relevant Head of Service at the earliest opportunity. Formal disciplinary procedures might follow depending on the outcome of the initial investigation.

If a young person Looked After by the Local Authority in a residential care establishment makes an allegation of assault or ill treatment against a Local Authority employee, this complaint will be treated in the same manner as any other referral to Children’s Services of suspected child abuse (see the Framework for Action for all Children, Young People and Families in Bolton). The referral will accordingly, in most cases, be jointly investigated by the Police and Social Workers and Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). Police involvement would depend upon the nature and seriousness of the allegations made. If there is believed to be foundation to the allegations, the Crown Prosecution Service may decide to bring a legal action for damages against both the Local Authority and the individual Care Worker.


Any person having concerns about:

  • The general operation of this policy;

  • Any individuals actions in respect of it.

should discuss their concern with the Service Manager/Registered Manager, or the relevant Head of Service or any other Senior Officer. It is important staff feel comfortable about bringing to others attention the unacceptable use of sanctions, in the interests of children and young people being Looked After (see Whistleblowing Policy).

1.6 Staff are required to understand that unacceptable behaviour and problems of control may arise from their own behaviour, stresses and attitudes. Thus it is important that staff maintain a professional role.
1.7 Staff are required to maintain their understanding of those challenging behaviours which are part of the process of child development e.g. staying out late, adopting stylised forms of dress - language - behaviour, challenging adult figures and representations of authority. These ‘normal’ behaviours should not become confused with serious control issues. Behaviours indicated above have been identified as a transitional stage of adolescence. Staff need to consider that some behaviours of disabled children need to be viewed in the context of their disability.

Staff whilst they may often be required to make immediate ‘on site’ decisions, do not act alone. They are part of a wider team of caring professionals and must operate within an agreed consensus compatible with the legislative framework, national and departmental guidance and best professional practice.

Training in the Team Teach approach is mandatory across Children’s Residential Services. Team Teach is an accredited staff training programme which focuses on valuing and respecting children/young people.

Emphasis is placed on a supportive team approach aimed at de-escalation and positive handling.

An important part of Team Teach Training is for staff to feel confident in offering, seeking and accepting help. To do this, Team Teach Help Scripts must be adhered to. See below and Appendix 1: Help Scripts.

Help Script from Staff to Child/Young Person as follows:

“Joe, I can see something is bothering you.”
“Joe, I am here to help.”
“Talk and I will listen.”
“Come and let’s sort this out.”
Help Script from Staff to Staff as follows:
“Mr Smith, help is available.”
“You can help by ……”
“Mr Smith, more help is available.”
“What do you suggest?”

Team Teach uses the word “more” as a code indicating it is time for a change of staff member.

To promote core knowledge, build and maintain skills and understanding, a community of critical and helpful friends is required, i.e. different organisations involved in the care and support of children/young people.

Working together to support one another and agree approaches with child/young person and their Family.

2. Administrative Requirements

Caption: Administrative Requirements



The emphasis in the process of maintaining acceptable behaviour is the use of praise and encouragement (see paragraph 1.3). There is overwhelming research evidence to demonstrate that a “high warmth - low criticism” relationship between adults and children and young people, promotes positive social interactions.  

2.2 The administrative requirements of the Policy are designed to reflect the above philosophy.

All written recordings made by Residential Support Workers in the routine of day to day care of children and young people must be shared as ‘open recordings’ with them. Children and young people are to be given the opportunity to read through these recordings and encouraged to make any comment and sign that they have read them. This process must be meaningful to the child or young person and should be completed at a level of understanding and pace to suit each individual. It must be acknowledged that on some occasions it will not be possible for the child or young person to sign theirs recordings or to make comment immediately.

N.B. Staff need to be aware of information sharing protocols within the Department, particularly with confidential information.

  2.2.2 There are many opportunities in the day to day routine of life to engage children and young people in this process by building relationships and being involved in helping children and young interpret their opinions of the their recordings. The record should reflect the child/young person’s wishes and feelings following the consultation.


Care and Placement Plans


The Looked After Children documentation is used by the department.

It provides a clear and comprehensive framework for recording:

  • The Care Plans in relation to children and young people;
  • The Placement Plan, to specify how Care Plans are to be delivered/achieved and who is responsible for what.

There is much scope in the way these documents are completed for communicating the above philosophy and also for developing partnership with families and other agencies in respect of individual children and young people. It is important that the wishes, feelings and choices of children/young people are included in their Care Plan and acted upon by staff. Participation and consultation are fundamental.


Risk Assessment

  2.4.1 A written risk assessment must be in place for all Accommodated children and young people and signed by relevant parties.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to:

  • Identify any risk posed to others by the child or young person accommodated;
  • Identify any risk to or vulnerability of the child or young person which carers need to be aware of;
  • To specify any action, strategies or approaches which are known to be of positive effect in respect of risks or vulnerabilities;
  • Specify any significant others i.e. people who may be of assistance in, or people who may trigger, difficulties.
  2.4.3 Risk assessments should be written in consultation with the young person, (commensurate with his/her ability). Where possible carers, who have a valuable insight into the needs of the child/young person should be consulted and participate in writing the risk assessment. The risk assessment should also specify review process and period if different to the statutory review period.
  2.4.4 The way the risk assessment is worded is also of importance. It is possible to communicate to children and young people that they are ‘feared’. This is likely to promote a negative reaction. With careful wording of the risk assessment, concern can be expressed for everyone’s feeling of and actual safety, without communicating to the child or young person, anxiety or fear about looking after the child or young person.


Placement Plans


Placement Plans are intended to communicate very specifically the hour to hour/day to day routine, activities, aims and objectives for individual children and young people.

The basic detail is important to children and young people, as it puts in place for them clarity of ‘what is to happen next’.


The Placement Plan should be developed and written with the involvement of the child or young person (commensurate with her/his ability) and persons with Parental Responsibility.

The Placement Plan should be worded in a positive encouraging way. They should be very carefully worded to avoid them being interpreted as threats or rigid controls.

Being clear about the positive outcomes being sought helps to frame placement programme's in non-threatening language.

  2.5.3 The Placement Plan should be seen as a ‘working document’. It constantly evolves and changes in consultation with the child or young person, his/her family, independent representative, key named worker in placement, social worker, Registered manager and other significant people as relevant. Another example of good working practice would be Behaviour Contracts to be compiled, agreed and signed by the child/young person and staff as soon after admission as possible.


Measure of Control Recordings


The Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 Regulation 17 and Schedule 3 require a record to be made of every disciplinary measure used.

Sanction Book recordings and praise sheets are intended to meet this requirement.

  2.6.2 They are further intended to provide a ‘vehicle’ of communication between workers and young people. Encouraging the giving of active positive feedback as well as recording sanctions and disciplinary measures.

If Physical Intervention Plan (PIP) is required (see Section 6, Restrictive Physical Intervention, a Positive Handling Plan based on the individual child/young person’s needs and character is needed. If PIP is employed, it must be recorded.

De-briefing for child/young person and staff and regular review of the positive handling plan are essential.


The recordings of the Positive Handling Plan are reviewed regularly. See Appendix 2: Positive Handling Plan.

  • Monitor discussion recordings;
  • Monitor and identify emerging patterns of behaviour or events;
  • Provide information for Children’s Services DMT to inform them of, sanctions being applied, evidence of effective management of professional practice via Regulation 33 inspections.

The format of Sanction recordings is straightforward, see Appendix 3: Discussion Record.

It is important that the young person has seen the recording.

Young people should be encouraged to record their own comments and sign the recording as soon as possible after an event, (if the young person is upset or angry then it may be better to pick an appropriate time to return to discuss the issue and share any recordings).


If the recording relates to the use of a sanction, then the recording must show the consultation demanded in paragraph 5.1

Where a young person disputes the use of a sanction then consultation with a Manager must take place before the sanction is actioned. This is not designed to undermine the staff member’s position but to validate their work. Where there is an incident where the worker thinks that the young person may refuse a sanction it is advisable to discuss this with the appropriate Manager to work out the best strategy before a sanction is used.

The use of appropriate, agreed sanctions is a matter for training involving staff and managers on a unit basis. Sanctions should be discussed with the child/young person as part of regular review.

3. Positive Interventions/Approved Sanctions

Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 Regulation 17; National Minimum Standards for Children’s Homes Standard 3.

U.N. Convention of The Rights of the Child articles 3, 4, 5, 12(1), 18(1-2), 39, 40.

It would be unacceptable to use sanctions without open, thoughtful exchange of views and reasons between staff and children or young people. The behaviour contract could address this in certain situations.

Caption: Interventions
3.1 Warning of more rigorous intervention, as identified in Placement Plan.
3.2 In certain circumstances it is acceptable to ignore negative behaviour (as Placement Plan guidance) and avoid giving attention where practical and possible as identified in Placement Plan.
3.3 Short periods away from the situation, ensuring appropriate level of supervision is maintained. In such circumstances he/she must have available an appropriate choice of activities to engage in.



The completion of reparation must always be acknowledged through a consultation recording. This will acknowledge the receipt of an apology, any additional task completed, the purchase of a material item to replace one misappropriated or damaged or the end of a series of repayments of money misappropriated. The importance of this acknowledgement is that the reparation is presented as a positive rewarding action on the part of the child or young person.

  3.4.1 The child or young person may offer an apology for their behaviour; which may in some circumstances be accepted as appropriate and sufficient.
  3.4.2 The child or young person may agree to undertake extra meaningful tasks. These tasks should be readily seen as relevant to her/him in terms of her/his unacceptable behaviour.
  3.4.3 The child or young person may agree to a reduction in pocket money to contribute to the repair of any damage caused by unruly or deliberately destructive behaviour or misappropriations of the belongings of others. Such reparation may be in full or in part, but should never amount to more than two thirds of their pocket money being stopped in any one week.

The repayment of misappropriated money as 4.4.3. Except:

  • Where she/he has, through a prior written agreement, been warned of the consequences of misappropriating a specific amount of money; or
  • Where he/she subsequently agrees that the misappropriation is equivalent to ‘getting pocket money early’;
  • In these circumstances full pocket money can be withheld and be deemed to have been paid early.
  3.4.5 Any money kept back from a child or young person as reparation for whatever reason, must be accounted for on her/his file, discussion and pocket money record. This record must be clear and understandable and when this money is used as reparation a receipt must be attached. The child or young person must be asked to countersign this recording.


Confiscation of Property

The confiscation, temporary or permanently, of any article, material or substance belonging to the resident if it if considered to be a serious nuisance to others; or to be dangerous or injurious to others or to him/herself.

N.B. Where the confiscated article may be an illegal substance or of unknown provenance/ownership, workers must take care to protect themselves from allegations of ‘handling’, ‘receiving’, or being ‘in possession.’


Reporting To The Police

(See paragraph 3.5, above).

In the process of maintaining positive, open and accepting relationships with the child or young person (see paragraph 1.8), it is vital that she/he does not see a potential for workers colluding with illegal acts or behaviour.

The use of the approved sanctions outlined as part of the process of maintaining the boundaries of acceptable behaviour may not be sufficient at some times to manage the unlawful activities of young people. The decision to Report to the Police should only be made in consultation with a manager under the following circumstances:

  • A third party specifically asks for the Police;
  • To report suspicious articles or substances where the child, young person cannot adequately explain how they had come to have them;
  • To give witness to events or pass information known to be relevant to an enquiry by the Police;
  • To report a crime;
  • If there is a fear that there is a risk of physical harm;
  • If there is an immediate act of, or threat of violence or serious damage to property, staff should ensure the safety of all concerned and if necessary call the Police immediately, and inform the appropriate Manager when it is safe to do so.
3.7 Restrictive Physical Intervention Plan (PIP) - see Section 6, Restrictive Physical Intervention.

4. Unacceptable Sanctions

Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 Regulation 17.

Caption: Unacceptable
4.1 The use of any sanction without open, thoughtful exchange of views and reasons between staff and children or young people is not acceptable.
  4.1.1 The use of sanctions in a way which conveys to the child or young person a sense of physical or emotional rejection. Staff must take great care to communicate that it is the young person’s behaviour which is not acceptable.
  4.1.2 The administration of sanctions to a child or young person by another child or young person. The negative control that some young people hold within their peer group must never be exploited to maintain order.

The use of a regime of total, inflexible systems of rewards or sanctions is unacceptable. Decisions about the use of sanctions should be based upon the specific needs of the individual child or young person.

The following sanctions are unacceptable:


Corporal Punishment

Is totally unacceptable, this includes e.g. striking, cuffing, shaking or any form of violent act or retaliation.


Deprivation of Food or Drink

Food and drink are primary needs, essential to the child’s physical health and survival. Access to a range and choice of food and drink is also essential to emotional health and developments and should never be withdrawn or restricted as part of a sanction. Specific items of food or drink may be removed from a young person’s diet as part of their care plan and on medical advice. This advice must be recorded in the medical section of the care plan.


Restriction or Refusal of Visits or Communications

The maintenance of contact between children and young people and their families, social workers, guardian ad litem, solicitor and independent representative is important and no restrictions may be placed on this contact as a measure of control.

However, there may be circumstances where children and young people have specific protection needs requiring the restriction of contact. Where this is the case it should be as a result of planning decisions and should be recorded in the care and placement plans. This is not a sanction.


Wearing Of Distinctive Or Inappropriate Clothing

For example clothes identified by children or young people to represent punishment and clothes which are inappropriate to the time of day and/or activity being undertaken.


The Withholding Of Medication Or Medical Or Dental Treatment

Is a totally prohibited practice as a measure of control.


The Intentional Deprivation of Sleep

Is prohibited practice and potentially dangerous to a child or young person’s health. However if a child or young person continually stays awake at night and sleeps in the daytime, they may be woken as part of their Care Plan and on medical advice to reverse the sleep pattern.


Intimate Physical Searches

Intimate physical searches are prohibited. A search of a child’s clothing may be appropriate where there are concerns for the child’s or others safety (e.g. concealed weapons or drugs).

  4.8.1 In such circumstances the search of a child’s clothing can only be undertaken with the agreement and co-operation of the child or young person.
  4.8.2 The use of physical restraint to aid the search of a child’s or young person’s clothing is prohibited, as to do so may be construed as an assault.
  4.8.3 The involvement of the Police may be appropriate, (see Section 3.6, Reporting To The Police).


Restriction of Liberty

Guidance and Regulations Vol 5 paragraphs 2.107-2.109.


The position regarding the restriction of liberty by locking children or young people up is clear. (Any placement in secure accommodation must fulfil the criteria set down in Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991).

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Articles 15-19-37.

Bolton Children’s Services. do not have any approved secure accommodation.

Any worker requiring clarification on a point of practice which they feel may contravene the law in respect of ‘the restriction of liberty of a young person’ should consult with their line manager or duty manager as appropriate.

  4.9.2 Ambiguity could arise with regard to measures which fall short of locking children or young people up but which restrict their liberty.
  4.9.3 It is unacceptable to require a child or young person to remain in a building or part of a building for an unreasonable length of time without relief (see Section 4.3, Deprivation of Food and Drink), (it is not possible to further define this statement, thus reinforcing the importance of workers acting in clear consultation with line managers see Section 6, Restrictive Physical Intervention).
  4.9.4 The refusal of permission to a child or young person to ‘go out’, (as part of staffs duty of care) is acceptable when the child would be placed at risk of Significant Harm if they were to go out

5. Unauthorised Absences

See Overnight Stays and Social Visits Procedure.

Caption: Unauthorised
5.1 Some children and young people Looked After will from time to time absent themselves from their placement. The risks to children and young people who ‘go missing’ should not be underestimated.
  5.1.1 The issue in relation to children and young people ‘missing from home’ (MFH) is very much about keeping children and young people safe.
  5.1.2 Often it will be difficult for workers to understand why a child or young person goes MFH. Staff must be aware of the potential of bullying or abuse being the reason for running away.

Of great importance is, how she/he is received back on their return to placement. It is important that workers communicate in the strongest way that:

  • They have been concerned about her/him being absent;
  • They reinforce their concern with appropriate actions such as, offering food, drink, running a bath etc (meeting primary needs stresses the sense of care by the worker).

Where it appears that a child or young person is wilfully going MFH possibly with the intent of being disruptive, it is important that workers do not impose sanctions in an arbitrary fashion. This type of behaviour is best managed through a dialogue with him/her and that plans to manage this behaviour are included in his/her placement programme, including sanctions if this is appropriate.

This kind of planning should involve people with specific responsibility for the young person, e.g. key worker, social worker, parents etc.

Discretion should be used to ensure the most appropriate response, reinforcing concerns in appropriate actions.


Reporting a Child or Young Person MFH

  5.2.1 The purpose of reporting a young person missing from home (MFH) is to ensure that appropriate agencies and people are aware of the young person’s absence.
  5.2.2 The age and vulnerability of each young person will have some bearing on when and how the young person is reported MFH. An assessment of vulnerability should be included in the Risk Assessment, which should be updated as often as required.
  5.2.3 Before reporting a young person missing from home all reasonable steps must be taken to ascertain where the young person is and enable him/her to return to placement, in line with the Joint Protocol agreed with Children’s Services and SMP.

If the address of where the young person is, is known then we must carefully consider the need to report as MFH:

  • Have all possible means of getting the young person to return to placement been exhausted?
  • Are the people living at this address known, do they present a risk to the young person?
  • Can a visit to this address be organised to attempt to collect the young person?
  • If the young person was to be left at the address, what is the risk?
  • Have people with parental responsibility been consulted about their young person’s absence and are they able to assist in affecting a return to placement?

The decision to report a young person missing from home rests with the carer on duty and responsible for the young person.

If the decision is arrived at that a young person needs to be reported missing from home, then a decision needs to be made about when this report should be made.

  5.2.6 In a situation where a young person is believed to be highly vulnerable either from risk of self harm or the predatory approach of others then an immediate MFH report should be made.
  5.2.7 If the young person is believed to be relatively safe away from the home then a report should be made after 11.00 pm, thus allowing time for the young person to return voluntarily.

Who must be informed of a child or young person MFH?

  • Report made to Police;
  • Any person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Duty Manager;
  • The child’s social worker (the next working day);
  • Any significant person where a prior agreement to inform has been made;
  • Manager (the next working day).

Where people are not contactable by telephone, then all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure they are informed at the earliest opportunity and;

  • If a child or young person is MFH for a period exceeding 24 hours or is deemed to be especially vulnerable, the Assistant Director, Children and Families and/or Director of Children’s Services must be informed at the earliest opportunity, and on the young person’s return. It may be necessary for the Assistant Director to take further action in arranging for publicity to be carried out or informing members etc.
5.3 In the case of young people who persistently abscond Appendix 4: Procedure Persistent Missing Persons outlines the procedure agreed with the Police.
  5.3.1 Within this procedure it is still the Children's Services departments (reporting worker) responsibility to identify where this procedure is appropriate. Where we have justifiable concerns about a young person’s vulnerability they must be reported MFH earlier and ensure that the Duty Police Sergeant is aware of our concerns.


Reporting A Child Or Young Person Returned To Placement

  5.4.1 Reporting a child returned to placement is essentially a repeat of 3.2.8 to ensure that any person with concerns for her/him is informed of a safe return.

This will be done initially by staff. If Young People need to access the independent services of the RUNA Scheme, a referral will be made or alternatively they can contact the Children's Rights Officer at Action for Children


Children and Young People “Lost in Care”

  5.5.1 There will be occasions when a child or young person is MFH for a substantial period of time. It may occur in certain circumstances that his/her placement may be relinquished during his/her absence, to allow another child or young person to make use of the placements.
  5.5.2 A child or young persons placement may be relinquished, but under no circumstances should his/her name be removed from the ‘children in residence returns’ until he/she has been found and a formal decision taken to remove his/her name.
  5.5.3 This decision should only be taken by the Head Of Service, at a meeting specifically convened to ensure that adequate steps are being taken to ensure that he/she is located and safe.

6. Restrictive Physical Intervention

Caption: Restrictive Physical Intervention


Staff Position

  6.1.1 Staff are not employed by the department to engage in the physical intervention of children and young people. They are employed to care for, protect and meet the primary and developmental needs of children and young people.
  6.1.2 Situations will however arise where physical intervention becomes necessary to protect individuals from serious harm. Physical intervention can be in itself a risky procedure with the possibility of serious injury to either party. For this reason PI must be seen as a choice of last resort.
  6.1.3 It is not the intention of this guidance to inhibit any worker acting to prevent another from coming to any serious harm. This action may entail physical intervention.
  6.1.4 It is however, important that workers are aware of the criteria and issues they must take into consideration before they engage in physical intervention.


Legal Considerations

There is no special law which applies to people employed to provide care and to control children and young people. Ordinary common law on assault applies. The use of PI may be construed in law as trespass to the person.




Assault and battery are two distinctive crimes of common law and their separate existence has been confirmed by Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

Definition of Assault

An assault may be committed if any person causes the apprehension in another that they may do harm. This could mean raising a fist or issuing a verbal threat. Nobody needs to be injured, hurt or even touched for the technical offence to take place.

Definition of Assault and Battery

This may be committed if a person touches another without permission. They do not have to touch flesh for the offence to take place. Even to touch another person’s clothing may be sufficient.



False Imprisonment

Unauthorised bodily restraint without lawful justification can be regarded as an offence of false imprisonment.

Common Law relating to false imprisonment

An offence of false imprisonment may be committed under common law if a person is kept against their will, regardless of whether any force is applied or not. It is sufficient that someone intends to prevent the person from leaving or their own free will for the offence to be proved.




The force used is no more than necessary to accomplish the objective for which it is allowed. The reaction (to the child or young person’s behaviour) must be in proportion to the harm threatened.

In the management of violent incidents on the defence of self from attack, the law holds that any force used must be “reasonable” in the circumstances.

However, the law does not define “reasonable”.

Staff who have a Duty of Care may have lawful jurisdiction for actions which could otherwise be considered unlawful. Examples of a lawful defence would be an individual taking reasonable steps to defend himself, or others from injury, or to prevent harm to another person or property. The clearest lawful justification is that the actions of a carer are reasonable, proportionate and in the best interests of the young person. Under Human Rights legislation 1998 they should be “absolutely necessary”.

The law recognises that people make honest mistakes. If a person acts instinctively, in the heat of the moment but in good faith and with the best intentions, this may be a common law defence. (Stones Manual for Justice 1987 Sec 4.765).

Legislation related to the above is covered as part of Team Teach Training. Guidance is also available in Team Teach Work Books given out on training.

Team Teach refers to Restraint as Restrictive Physical Intervention.


Definition of Restraint (Restrictive Physical Intervention)

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Guidance on permissible forms of control in Children’s Residential Care, April 1993 Paragraph 5.2.

“Physical restraint is the positive application of force with the intention of overpowering the child. That is, in order to protect a child from harming himself or others or seriously damaging property. The proper use of physical restraint requires skill and judgement, as well as knowledge of non-harmful methods of restraint. The onus is on the care worker to determine the degree of restraint appropriate and when it should be used. In particular, staff must be careful that they do not overact”.

  6.3.1 The damaging psychological effect and the potential for physical injury cannot be overestimated in the act of overpowering a child or young person. The past life experiences of many children and young people Looked After have often included abuse by adults and the traumatic experience of feeling ‘powerless’ and ‘overpowered’. It is our responsibility to protect children and young people; as far as possible, from such experiences whilst being Looked After.

The onus is on the member of staff to determine ‘when restraint should be used’, it is however strongly recommended in making the decision to use physical restraint, that the worker ensures:

  • They are acting within the law;
  • They are acting within departmental guidance and policy;
  • They are acting within the agreed care, placement plans and individual intervention plans, for the individual child or young person.

(Department of Health Guidance on permissible forms of control in Children’s Residential Care). 1993 Paragraph 9.1 (Appendix 5 : DHSC Guidance ‘Interventions To Maintain Control’).


Guidelines For The Use Of Restrictive Physical Intervention (RPI)

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Vol 5 paragraphs 2.95-2.105 makes reference to physical Restraint (Restrictive Physical Intervention) and should be used rarely and only to prevent a child harming himself or others or from damaging property. Force should not be used for any other purpose, or simply to secure compliance with staff instructions. Homes should have a particularly clear policy on how and when restraint may be used. Training Team Teach - A Positive Handling approach must be provided and managers should regularly and formally monitor staff (working directly with children/young people) awareness of the rules governed by the Team Teach approach. Team Teach teaches specific techniques which are graded up and down. The aim of the Team Teach approach would be to grade down as soon as possible. Should restrictive Physical Intervention be used, the child/young person must be carefully monitored.

Where children in homes have suffered particularly damaging experiences and have difficulty developing the self control or good personal relationships which diminish the need for physical restraint it is important that sufficient staff are employed to ensure that the children are dealt with sensitively and with dignity.


Restrictive physical intervention should be used only as a planned response or in an emergency, as a choice of last resort.

In an Emergency to:

  • Safeguard a child or young person from causing her/himself physical harm;
  • Safeguard others from being harmed by the actions of a child or young person;
  • Prevent a child or young person from causing serious, substantial and widespread damage to property.

In a Planned way:

  • As above but within the confines of an approved written ‘Positive Handling Plan’;
  • To prevent the absconding of a child or young person detained under a Court Order.
  6.4.2 On every occasion where Physical Intervention is used as an emergency measure, a planning meeting must be called. Such a meeting should take place as soon as possible after the incident and no longer than five working days after the incident. The purpose of the planning meeting would be to re-evaluate the risk assessment and amend the Positive Intervention Plan. If there are further incidents before the planning meeting restrictive Physical Intervention may need to be used again (see paragraph 6.5.2). If this is the case written guidelines should be drawn up to cover the interim period.
  6.4.3 PI may only be used as an emergency measure where there has been no previous incident, or where it is not part of the Positive Handling Plan.

The purpose of the risk assessment and written Positive Handling plan is to place the management decisions relating to aggressive/violent behaviour or out of control behaviour within a clear planning forum to:

  • Ensure that placements are adequately supported;
  • Protect individual children and young people;
  • Protect those working with individual children and young people.

Only those workers who have been specifically trained in Team Teach may be involved in a PI.

  6.4.5 The approved method of P. I. adopted for use by the department, often requires two trained workers to implement. Friendly and single elbow Team Teach holds may be employed by one member of staff - although if possible there should be a second staff to witness. It is considered unsafe to attempt to use holds graded up from a single elbow or single person wrap of a smaller child alone. Guidance re staff: child/ young person ratio should P. I. be necessary must be written up in the Positive Handling Plan. If the worker is at risk of harm they should leave the young person or even the building for a short space of time and summon help where needed. Where there are other children and young people the worker should encourage them to move to a safer place.


Positive Handling Plan (Guidance available in Team Teach Work Book)



General Principles:

  • Physical Intervention should only be used as a choice of last resort; where it is necessary to protect individuals from serious physical harm;
  • Physical Intervention should only need to be used with a very small number of children or young people and then only rarely;
  • Care Plans, Placement Plans, and Risk Assessments should outline the ‘collective wisdom’ in respect of the kinds of approaches and methods of working which are most likely to be successful with individual children and young people, short of physical Restraint;
  • Positive Handling plans are not to be seen as a routine consideration in the process of managing children and young people;
  • In considering the use of Physical Intervention the respective risks of using or not using it must be considered. Risk is a combination of the likelihood of behaviour occurring which will require Restraint and of how severe that behaviour presents, and what the outcome is likely to be. There is always a potential that the capabilities of workers will be less than the destructive capacity of the child or young person. Great caution must be exercised in engaging in any restrictive Physical Intervention.
  6.5.2 Whenever a Positive Handling Plan that includes PI is considered in respect of a child or young person, good practice would be that they would be independently represented by either a parent or Advocate e.g. Action for Children, at a planning meeting.

This planning meeting, must include Social Worker, Team Leader, Key Worker where possible, child, parent or independent representative. It should consider the use of a Positive Handling Plan and must consider all other possible options e.g.:

  • That a multidisciplinary assessment of his/her needs, (e.g. potential to be beyond his/her own control, possibility of organic causes etc), is available;
  • That her/his current placement is appropriate to assessed needs;
  • Ascertain that his/her placement input is adequately supported and staffed.
  6.5.4 Other successfully applied approaches to managing his/her behaviour must be considered in the context of the current placement and or any potential placement options.
  6.5.5 Where there is a court order specifying the detention of a child or young person accommodated, a written Positive Handling Plan must also be in place. (This is not likely to occur as such a child would most likely be accommodated in secure accommodation).

Where a Positive Handling Plan is approved it must take into account:

  • Where behaviours requiring restrictive Physical Intervention are likely to occur;
  • The implications for other young people resident in this setting;
  • The physical capabilities of the person the positive handling plan relates to, including, any health problems, disabilities as well as their strength and ability to cause harm to others or themselves;
  • A formal monitoring plan, to monitor all incidents of the behaviour in question and what level of intervention was used, by whom and how long for. And any positive handling plan, must be approved by the nominated officer, (Appropriate Head of Service, Children’s Services).
  6.5.7 Positive Handling Plans must be reviewed regularly and as 

(at least monthly) part of the statutory reviews process. They must also be reviewed in the light of any significant change in any factor leading to the plan being agreed.

7. Further Information

Guidance: Positive Environments Where Children Can Flourish (Ofsted)

Appendix 1: Help Scripts

Help Script from Staff to Child/Young Person as Follows:

“Joe, I can see something is bothering you.”
“Joe, I am here to help.”
“Talk and I will listen.”
“Come and let’s sort this out.”

Help Script from Staff to staff as Follows:

“Mr Smith, help is available.”
“You can help by ……”
“Mr Smith, more help is available.”
“What do you suggest?”

Team Teach uses the word “more” as a code indicating it is time for a change of staff member.

To promote core knowledge, build and maintain skills and understanding, a community of critical and helpful friends is required, i.e. different organisations involved in the care and support of children/young people.

Working together to support one another and agree approaches with child/young person and their Family.

Appendix 2: Positive Handling Plan

Click here to view Appendix 2: Positive Handling Plan.

Appendix 3: Discussion Record

Click here to view Appendix 3: Discussion Record.

Appendix 4: Procedure Persistent Missing Persons

Procedure Agreed with G. M. Police

Missing children and young persons who absent themselves regularly from local authority homes are a constant drain on police resources. To be classed as a ‘persistent missing person’ the local authority home must be told and approved and he or she must be:

  • Resident in a local authority home, or home approved by the local authority;
  • Missing on four occasions in a month, or six times in two months from the same home;
  • Authorised as a ‘persistent missing person’ by an inspector or above.

Missing Persons staff at the Criminal Records Unit (S) put a ‘locate-trace’ entry on the PNC record of a ‘persistent missing person’. The entry tells all police forces of the action to be taken if the person is stopped and checked.

The same information is put on the ‘IN’ page of the person’s OIS record.

This does not mean that we will not take any action. We delay taking a missing person report until 9.00 am the following day, with the added safeguard that there is an entry on the PNC should he or she be stopped and checked

Classifying persistent missing juveniles in this way provides the following safeguards and advantages.

  • If such a person is stopped and checked we can take suitable action;
  • We are doing something constructive about a constant problem;
  • The locate-trace entry holds open the PNC record and saves operator time creating and deleting entries;
  • A FWIN may be delayed until the following morning before a report is taken, thus saving police time.

Call Taker

If a ‘persistent missing person’ goes missing you should:

  • Check the PNC to find out if he or she is a ‘persistent missing person’;
  • If a ‘locate-trace’ entry is not present, treat the report the same as any other missing person report;
  • If there is any suggestion that the person may come to harm, send an officer immediately;
  • If a ‘locate-trace’ entry is present and there are no grounds for believing that the person has been harmed, delay the FWIN until 9.00 am the following day when a telephone call should be made to the home to confirm the person has returned - if he or she has not returned, an officer must take a missing person report within six hours.

Appendix 5 : DHSC Guidance ‘Interventions To Maintain Control’

Section 1X: General Principles Governing Interventions to Maintain Control


The following guiding principles provide a framework in which a residential social worker can make judgements about possible interventions. It is imperative that staff exercise sound judgement and act with discretion in deciding how to react in a particular set of circumstances.

  1. A distinction must be maintained between the use of a “one-off” intervention which is appropriate in the particular circumstances, and using it repeatedly as a regular feature of a regime;
  2. Staff must be able to show that the method of intervention was in keeping with the incident that gave rise to it;
  3. The degree and duration of any force applied must be proportional to the circumstances;
  4. The potential for damage to persons and property in applying any form of restraint must always be kept in mind;
  5. The failure of a particular intervention to secure a child’s compliance should not automatically signal the immediate use of another more forceful form of intervention. Escalation should be avoided if possible: especially if it would make the overall situation more destructive and/or unmanageable;
  6. The age and competence of the child should be taken into account in deciding what degree of intervention is necessary;
  7. In developing individual child care plans, consideration should be given to approaches to control that would be appropriate to that child’s case.