Dealing with Violent or Challenging Behaviour


The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11


This chapter gives guidance on responding to aggressive and violent behaviour.


This chapter should be read in conjunction with Use of Restraint and Physical Interventions Procedure and The Offending and Anti-Social Behaviour – guidance on when to involve the Police Procedure


1. Introduction
2. Referral and Admission
  2.1 Risk Assessments
3. Reporting and Recording
4. Follow up After an Incident
5. Level of Risk
6. Actions for Staff following a Violent Incident

1. Introduction

Children who have suffered abuse and neglect may display difficult, risk taking or challenging behaviours, including violence and / or aggression. A child’s challenging behaviour should not be viewed in isolation.

Children who have a history of violence or aggressive behaviour, should be placed in settings which promote and support positive behaviour. The placing authority must ensure that the home has strategies to deal with challenging behaviour, and that staff are trained in encouraging positive behaviour through de-escalation of conflicts and confrontations. 

Staff working with children who display aggressive and violent behaviour should be supported and trained to manage their own feelings and responses.

2. Referral and Admission

Before a child is admitted to the home, the placing authority should provide information on:

  • Any previous challenging behaviour (including violence and aggression);
  • A description of the behaviour, including any triggers so staff can assess whether there are any patterns of behaviour.

At the point of admission staff should also ascertain the following:

  • What intervention strategies have been used to manage the behaviour?
  • What interventions had positive outcomes?
  • What interventions triggered further acts of aggression or violence?

2.1 Risk Assessments

Managers should then:

  • Undertake a written risk assessment and develop a strategy for managing any challenging behaviour;
  • Ensure all staff are provided with training on how to de-escalate conflict and confrontation and manage aggression and violence.
The child’s Placement Plan should outline strategies for managing and promoting positive behaviour. If necessary, there should be a separate detailed Positive Behaviour Support Plans.

3. Reporting and Recording

The manager and the staff within the home should agree the behaviours which will be taken to constitute violence or aggression for reporting purposes.

Reports on aggressive and violent behaviour should provide the following information:

  • What was happening at the time;
  • Who was present;
  • What happened?

Staff and managers should consider the following before reporting an act of aggression or violence:

  • Staff should question their own behaviour and responses;
  • Has the child responded inappropriately to a feeling or act against them where the right to be angry was acceptable, but their response/behaviour was not?
  • Did this occur with a specific person with whom it is known they have difficulty?
  • Had the child received visitors or contact from family/ friends at the time of the incident or shortly before or after?

Home’s managers and staff should explore all of the above and look for any triggers before they label a child as aggressive or violent.

Accurate records are important as they allow evaluation to take place and help identify any patterns in behaviour. This critical assessment of a situation will ensure that future reports of behaviours, which can 'label' a child aggressive or violent will be based on factual and evaluative reporting.

4. Follow up After an Incident

Whenever an act or violence or aggression has occurred the home’s manager should ensure that both staff and child concerned, are allowed to discuss the incident and its impact on themselves and others in the group.

Managers should:

  • Undertake a review and make necessary changes to internal policies, routines and children’s Placement Plans to help with reducing or preventing incidents from occurring in the future;
  • Discuss with staff how they dealt with the situation and, if required, how they could deal with the situation differently in the future.
Home’s managers should collate data emanating from incidents and periodically undertake a review. The home’s policies, training strategies, routines and methods for promoting positive behaviour amongst children should be revised as required.

5. Level of Risk

Managers need to ensure that procedures are in place for responding to incidents and that they match the level of risk.

Workers who are exposed to the risk of violence and aggression need training on the procedures to follow in the event of an incident. It is important that they are aware of the criteria for initiating procedures and are free to do so when they feel under threat.

If the level of risk is such that the continuing placement of the child is threatened, or may be at risk of coming to an end, the home’s manager must draw this to the attention of the child’s social worker and Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), who may decide to convene a Looked After Review.

6. Actions for Staff following a Violent Incident

A decision should be made between the staff member, the manager and young person about whether to report matters to the Police, see Offending and Anti-Social Behaviour – guidance on when to involve the Police Procedure.