Use of Restraint and Physical Interventions


The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11


  1. Planning for Children
  2. Definition of Physical Interventions
  3. Who may use Physical Interventions
  4. Staff Training and Criteria for using Physical Interventions
  5. Locking or Bolting of Doors
  6. Notifications
  7. Medical Assistance and Examination
  8. Recording and Management Review

1. Planning for Children

The assessment and planning process for all children in residential care must consider whether the child is likely to behave in ways which may place him/herself or others at risk of injury or may cause damage to property. The impact of the child’s arrival on the group of children/young people living in the home should also be considered.

If any risks exist, strategies should be agreed to prevent or reduce the risk. These strategies may include Physical Interventions. Staff in the children’s home should continually review any risk assessments. All Residential Staff are trained in Team Teach Techniques. Staff in the children’s home should continually review the risk assessments.

Where physical intervention is likely to be necessary, for example, if it has been used in the recent past or there is an indication from a risk assessment that it may be necessary, the circumstances that give rise to such risks, and the strategies for managing it, should be outlined in the child's Positive Handling Plan.

In developing such a Plan, consideration must be given to whether there are any medical conditions which mean particular Advanced Team Tech techniques or methods of physical intervention should be avoided. If so, any health care professional currently involved with the child be consulted regarding appropriate strategies and this must be drawn to the attention of those working with or looking after the child and it must be stated in the Positive Handling Plan. If in doubt, medical advice must be sought.


The absence of a strategy in the Placement Plan or Positive Handling Plan does not prevent staff from acting as they see fit in the management of highly confrontational or potentially harmful behaviour. However, staff may only deviate from agreed plans where they are able to demonstrate that that it was not sufficient to prevent injury or damage to property.

Any deviation from an agreed plan or must be reported to the home’s manager and child's social worker without delay.

2. Definition of Physical Interventions

There are four broad categories of physical intervention.

  1. Restraint: is defined as the positive application of force with the intention of overpowering a child. Practically, this means any measure or technique designed to completely restrict a child's mobility or prevent a child from leaving, for example:
    • Any technique which involves a child being held on the floor;
    • Any technique involving the child being held by two or more people;
    • Any technique involving a child being held by one person if the balance of power is so great that the child is effectively overpowered; e.g. where a child under the age of ten is held firmly by an adult;
    • Restraint also includes restricting the child’s liberty of movement. This can include changes to the physical environment of the home, the removal of physical aides or the locking or bolting of a door in order to contain or prevent a child from leaving. These should all be recorded as restraint.

The significant distinction between the first category, Restraint, and the others (holding, touch and presence), is that restraint is defined as the positive application of force with the intention of overpowering a child. The intention is to overpower the child, completely restricting the child's mobility. The other categories of physical intervention provide the child with varying degrees of freedom and mobility;

  1. Holding: includes any measure or technique which involves the child being held firmly by one person, so long as the child retains a degree of mobility and can leave if determined enough;
  2. Touching:  includes minimum contact in order to lead, guide, usher or block a child; applied in a manner which permits the child quite a lot of freedom and mobility;
  3. Presence: is a form of control using no contact, such as standing in front of a child or obstructing a doorway to negotiate with a child; but allowing the child the freedom to leave if they wish.

3. Who may use Physical Interventions

Staff may only use Physical Intervention if they have undertaken approved Team Teach training. Approved techniques should comply with the following principles:

  1. Not impede the process of breathing - the use of 'prone face down' techniques must never be used;
  2. Not be used in a way which may be interpreted as sexual;
  3. Not intentionally inflict pain or injury or threaten to do so;
  4. Avoid vulnerable parts of the body, e.g. the neck, chest and genital areas;
  5. Avoid hyperextension, hyper flexion and pressure on or across the joints;
  6. Not employ potentially dangerous positions.

4. Staff Training and Criteria for using Physical Interventions

4.1 Staff Training

All staff must be trained in methods of behaviour management, including the use of physical intervention and restraint, that are agreed by the home.

This training must ensure that staff are able to:

  • Manage their own feelings and responses to the emotions and behaviours presented by children;
  • Manage their responses and feelings arising from working with children, particularly where children display challenging behaviour or have difficult emotional issues;
  • Understand how children’s previous experiences can manifest in challenging behaviour;
  • Use methods to de-escalate confrontations or potentially violent behaviour to avoid the use of physical intervention and restraint.

4.2 Criteria for using Physical Interventions

There are different criteria for the use of restraint and other forms of physical intervention, such as holding, touching and physical presence:

  1. Restraint - Regulation 20 sets out the only purposes for which restraint can be used:
    • Preventing injury to any person (including the child who is being restrained);
    • Preventing serious damage to the property of any person (including the child who is being restrained); or
    • Preventing a child who is accommodated in a secure children's home from absconding from the home.

When restraint involves the use of force, the force used must not be more than is necessary and should be applied in a way that is proportionate i.e. the minimum amount of force necessary to avert injury or serious damage to property for the shortest possible time.

  1. Other forms of physical intervention, such as holding, touching or physical presence, are less forceful and restrictive than restraint, and may be used to protect children or others from less serious injury or damage to property;
  2. Restraint may not be used to force compliance or as a punishment where Significant Harm or serious damage to property are not otherwise likely.

A child/young person can be prevented from the leaving the home if it is felt they are at risk of Significant Harm due to:

  • Child sexual exploitation;
  • Gang related activities;
  • Misuse of drugs.

This restriction of a young person's liberty should be for the minimum amount of time possible and in response to immediate danger. Staff will need to ensure that in the recording of any incident they clearly outline all the steps taken to prevent the need to restrict the child's liberty using physical means.

If a young person continually requires this level of intervention to help them to remain safe, a planning meeting should held with the placing authority to consider the appropriateness of the placement.

When strategies to manage behaviour are agreed in Placement Plans, they will be subject to a may be recognised that this is a process of ‘testing’, and as such the effectiveness of any strategies will need to be  reviewed in conjunction with the local authority. The review should be clearly documented, and any agreement must not conflict with regulations regarding 'Deprivation of Liberty'.

5. Locking or Bolting of Doors

It is acceptable to use electronic mechanisms or other modifications which are necessary for security, for example on external exits or windows, so long as this does not restrict children's mobility or ability to leave the premises if they wish to do so.

Locking of external doors, or doors to hazardous materials, may be acceptable as a security precaution if applied within the normal routine of the home.

It is also acceptable to lock doors to physically restrict the normal movement within or from the home to reduce the risk of significant injury or serious damage to property and so long as the criteria set out above (Section 4.2 Criteria for Using Physical Intervention) are met i.e. where the injury or damage to property is likely in the predictable future, that the locking of the door is immediately necessary, used as a last resort and for the minimum amount of time necessary to de-escalate the situation*. If such methods are used in the home, the following must apply:

  1. The home’s Statement of Purpose must clearly state the policy and strategies for using such methods;
  2. Placing authorities must have their attention drawn to the use of such methods and the individual Placement Plans for children should refer to them and describe the circumstances where such strategies may be used;
  3. Such restrictions for one child do not impose similar restrictions on other children.

A children’s home cannot routinely deprive a child of their liberty without a court order, such as a Section 25 Order to place a child in a licensed secure children’s home or in the case of young people aged 16 who lack mental capacity, a deprivation of liberty may be authorised by the court of protection following an application under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

There are some limited circumstances however, where doors may be and possibly should be locked:

  1. Where it is immediately necessary to prevent harm to any person or serious criminal damage. This action must be only for a reasonable and limited period of time e.g. until the risk has passed or alternate and more appropriate control measures have been organised. In such circumstances there must be a clear record of action taken and justification for those actions;
  2. To prevent access of any unauthorised persons wishing to gain access to young people or the premises for illicit or illegal purposes, for instance issues relating to child sexual exploitation or abuse, bullying, threatening behaviour etc. This action must be only for a reasonable and limited period of time e.g. until the risk has passed or alternate and more appropriate control measures have been organised, such as calling the police for assistance. In such circumstances there must be a clear record of action taken and justification for those actions;
  3. During the hours of dusk to dawn, as a reasonable security/safety measure. NOT in order to restrict the free movement of resident young people in or out of their unit/home, nor as a method of control. There may however, be significant risks in allowing young people to leave the unit/home at night without staff knowledge and therefore supervision. As such, young people wanting to leave at night will need to ask a member of the residential staff team or waking night care assistants to open the external door. These staff, having where necessary consulted the senior on duty, will then decide whether to let the young person leave or not based on the risk assessments on file or an impromptu additional risk assessment made owing to any presenting unforeseen circumstances. In such circumstances there must be a clear record of action taken and justification for those actions.

It is important that staff decisions to lock doors are in keeping with and guided by each young person’s Placement and Positive Behaviour Support Plans, risk assessments and have line management approval. Prior approval should be sought where possible and where this is not possible, immediate retrospective approval for them to remain locked or a decision made to unlock them.

*If such strategies are used upon a child on a frequent or extended basis, it may be a form of restriction of liberty, which is not acceptable; therefore, the social worker must be notified give consideration to an application being made for a Secure Accommodation Order.

6. Notifications

If physical intervention is used upon a child, the home’s manager and the child's social worker must be notified within one working day.

If a serious incident or the Police/emergency services are called, the relevant senior manager must be notified and consideration given to whether a Notifiable Event has occurred, if so, see Notifications of Serious Events Procedure.

The social worker should make a decision about whether to inform the child's parent(s) and, if so, who should do so.

7. Medical Assistance and Examination

Where Physical Intervention has been used, the child, staff and others involved must be able to call for medical assistance, and children must always be given the opportunity to see a Registered Nurse or Medical Practitioner, even if there are no apparent injuries. After an incident following advanced Team teach techniques a first aid check must be undertaken on the young Person at 5 min, 30 min and 60 mins after the incident and recorded in the Restraint Book.

If a Registered Nurse or Medical Practitioner is seen, they must be informed that any injuries may have been caused from an incident involving physical intervention.

Whether or not the child or others decide to see a Registered Nurse or Medical Practitioner it must be recorded, together with the outcome.

The Registered Person should regularly review the effectiveness and check the medical assessment of the system remains up to date.

8. Recording and Management Review

If a child has an Education, Health and Care Plan in which a specific type of restraint is used as part of the day to day child’s routine, the home is exempted from the recording requirement. Where these plans provide for a specific type of restraint that is not for day to day use, the restraint used must be recorded. Any other restraint used must always be recorded.

8.1 Recording

All forms of physical interventions should be recorded in the Restraint Log and an incident report must be completed.

The incident should be recorded in the home's Daily Log and on the Daily Record for the individual child(ren).

Ideally within 24 hours the child involved in the restraint should be able to express their feelings about this experience and should be encouraged to record their views to the record of restraint.

8.2 Management Review

The child's Positive Handling Plan should be reviewed to incorporate strategies for reducing or preventing future incidents. The Child must be encouraged to contribute to this review and, if a health care professional is involved with the Child, any new Advanced Team Teach strategies must be approved by that person.

The manager of the home should regularly review incidents and examine trends and issues emerging from this to enable staff to reflect, learn and inform future practice and, where necessary, should ensure that procedures and training are updated.