Searching Children/Bedrooms


  1. Searching
  2. Confiscating Items
  3. Notifications and Management Review
  4. Recording

1. Searching

Bedrooms should not be generally entered without a child’s permission. Where it may be necessary to conduct a room search, this should ordinarily take place after the child has been informed and permission given.

However, there may be instances where it is necessary to conduct an immediate search of a child or their belongings, including the searching of a child's bedroom. For example, if staff have reasonable cause to believe that the child has concealed weapons, illegal drugs or other items which may place them or others at risk of injury or harm. This could include mobile phones if they are being used in a way that places the child or others at risk of Significant Harm e.g. they are being used for online bullying or they place themselves or others at risk of exploitation.

1.1 Searches with Co-operation

If there is a suspicion that such items are concealed, staff should try to obtain them with the child's co-operation.

Before conducting such a search, staff should consult their own supervisor/manager and the child's social worker. Two staff should be present during the search, one of which should be the same gender as the child. The child should also be present.

Reasonable precautions must be taken to protect against possible sharp or dangerous objects that may be concealed.

If weapons or any dangerous or offensive items are found, they must be confiscated and passed to the manager. See Section 2, Confiscating items.

1.2 Searches without Co-operation or without the knowledge of the child

If the child does not co-operate, or is likely not to, a search may be undertaken without their co-operation or knowledge.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the Manager and child's social worker must be consulted and agreement reached about the actions that may be taken. It may be appropriate to consult relevant line managers.

When coming to a decision on the actions that will be taken, the managers/social worker(s) should take account of the following:

  • Two staff must be present, one of whom must be the same gender as the child. The child should also be present if possible;
  • If there is a risk that the searching of the child may escalate the situation e.g. lead to violence or injury to the child, staff or others, staff should contain the situation as best they can and consult the home’s manager or a supervisor before proceeding; and consideration given to asking for Police assistance;
  • The power to search without consent enables a ‘personal search’, involving removal of outer garments and searching of pockets, but not an intimate search going further than that; which only a person with more extensive powers e.g. a Police Officer, can do;
  • When conducting searches, reasonable precautions must be taken to protect against possible sharp or dangerous objects that may be concealed;
  • If weapons or any dangerous or offensive items are found, they must be confiscated and passed to the manager/Supervising social worker or child's social worker. See Section 2 Confiscating Items.

Exceptional Circumstances

If there is an immediate risk of Injury or damage to property, staff may take what actions they deem to be appropriate to protect themselves or others. As a last resort, this can include the use of Physical Intervention in order to search a child or the entering of a child's bedroom without their knowledge. However, staff must only take such actions if it is safe to do so and their actions comply with the provisions/procedures set out in Use of Restraint and Physical Interventions Procedure.

2. Confiscating Items

Any items that are seized or removed by staff should be passed to the home’s manager. The home’s manager should record the matter and, if items are confiscated, they must be kept securely until the child leaves the placement or the manager considers that they should be returned e.g. where a child demonstrates s/he is able to use a mobile phone safely. The manager must provide the child with a receipt for the confiscated item(s).

If the items are thought to be a weapon, they should be passed to the Police. Where staff find controlled drugs, the home’s manager should consider passing them to the Police; other substances not believed to be controlled should be confiscated, passed to the home’s manager, recorded and destroyed. If items are thought to be stolen they must be delivered to the Police unless there is a good reason not to do so (see below) – in which case the stolen item should be returned to the owner. These stolen items may be retained or disposed of if returning them to their owner is not practicable.

Home’s managers should have a good reason not to pass items to the Police and should take account of the following:

  • Where the manager is unsure as to the legal status of a substance and has reason to believe it may be a controlled drug they should treat it as such;
  • With regard to stolen items, it would not be reasonable or desirable to involve the police in dealing with low value items. However, the manager may judge it appropriate to contact the police if the items are valuable (smartphones/laptops) or illegal (alcohol).
Disposing of alcohol does not include returning it to the child. It should be poured down the sink.

3. Notifications and Management Review

There are different notifications procedures for searches concluded with and without children's co-operation.

3.1 With Children's Co-operation

Searches undertaken with the child's co-operation, where no force is used, must be notified to the manager at the first opportunity; the manager will decide whether to inform the relevant social worker.

3.2 Without Children's Co-operation

Any search conducted without the child's co-operation, where a level of force has been used, is an Incident and must be notified to the manager and child’s Social Worker within 24 hours or as soon as practicable thereafter.

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

Depending on the seriousness of the Incident, other people/agencies may have to be notified, see Notifications of Serious Events Procedure.

4. Recording

Searches should be noted in the home's Daily Log, relevant child's Daily Record, with details as listed below:

  1. The time and date of the search;
  2. The reason or suspicions which led to the need to conduct the search;
  3. Who conducted the search and whether the child or others were present;
  4. Whether the child cooperated;
  5. What was found, and whether items found were retained/confiscated;
  6. If items were retained/confiscated, where they were stored.