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1.5.2 Challenging Behaviour by Children and Young People to Staff


This section of guidance notes concerns working with children and young people. For information on adults the Adult Procedure Manual must be consulted for information in relation to Challenging Behaviour and Violence towards staff.

Staff in East Riding of Yorkshire Council must use these practice guidance notes to apply to the situations relevant to their particular area of work with children and young people. This guidance also applies to foster carers, and a placing local authority, as well as children and their families. Information appropriate to children should also be provided. These notes provide general guidelines for a range of situations and environments.

East Riding of Yorkshire is committed to the training of staff in the approved techniques.

It is important that staff have read and understood the procedures in relation to Challenging Behaviour and Violence towards staff. Staff must in addition be conversant with the guidance and key documents as listed in the procedures.

The text often refers to children, this is a generic term and also refers to young people up to the age of 18.


  1. Introduction                                   
  2. Key Principles                        
  3. What are We Talking About?             
  4. What can We Do About It?               
  5. What to do if Violence Occurs            
  6. Unacceptable Interventions               
  7. Violence Against Property                
  8. After an Incident                        
  9. Training

    Appendix 1: The Legal Framework 

    Appendix 2: Guidelines for Completion of ABC (Incident) Charts 

    Appendix 3: Challenging Behaviour Action Decision 

    Guidance Notes

1. Introduction    

Staff may be confronted with unacceptable levels of challenging behaviour or violence directed either against themselves or service users for whom they may be responsible.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council recognises that it has multiple responsibilities in respect of such behaviours, which include:

  • An obligation to children and young people and the public to deal with challenging behaviour in ways which take account of age, understanding, civil rights, and which are, wherever possible, compatible with their therapeutic needs;
  • An obligation to staff to ensure that they are able to work in a safe and healthy environment, and are supported in dealing with both the prevention and aftermath of violence, intimidation and aggression;
  • An obligation to have regard to the protection of the public, in the planning and execution of services to clients.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a framework for good practice, within which staff can assess how best to respond to behaviour which puts people at serious risk. Behaviour which challenges services should always be considered in relation both to the individual concerned and the environment in which it occurs.

These guidelines complement Children’s Social Care Procedures in respect of Challenging Behaviour and Violence. Additionally they form the basis for training and development programme's being developed by the Department’s Training and Development Section.

They are intended to offer practical advice to staff on how to:

  • Anticipate and prevent challenging behaviour or violence
  • What to do if challenging behaviour or violence occurs
  • What to do after the incident

Staff working in children’s residential homes have already had guidance issued in the form of the booklet “Good Order and Discipline”. For those workers, that guidance should still be adhered to. The principles it contains do not contradict in any way the guidance contained below.

2. Key Principles

All staff working within Children’s Social Care need to be aware of and understand the policy statements listed below. By demonstrating, through service delivery, attitudes, values and beliefs based on choice, respect, advocacy, rights and responsibilities, incidents of challenging behaviour and violence may be reduced.

Children’s Social Care staff should aim to keep these key principles in mind:

  1. All children have a right to respect as individuals, and to expect that in the provision of any service, due consideration will be given to their racial origin, gender, sexuality, religion, cultural and linguistic background and their personal circumstances.
  2. Children have a right to expect that they will be enabled to fulfil their potential, irrespective of their race, gender, cultural or religious background, or any disability.
  3. Children have a right to be consulted about decisions affecting their lives, and to have their views taken seriously.
  4. Wherever possible, Children’s Social Care will work in partnership with parents and children. Statutory intervention will only be sought when a court order is necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child and other methods are insufficient.
  5. When it is necessary for Children’s Social Care to seek a court order, children and parents have a right to expect that Children’s Social Care will endeavour to ensure processes will be completed without unnecessary delay.
  6. It is essential that plans for individual children are developed in partnership with the child and its family, and that the plans recognise the child’s perception of time and their right to security and choice.
  7. Young people leaving care have a right to receive the sort of support and assistance that would be provided by a “good parent” and this will continue until it is no longer needed. (Section 24, Children Act, 1989).
  8. Children with disabilities are children first and must have the opportunity to experience normal family life. It must be acknowledged that they may need special care, treatment and education if they are to reach their full potential.
  9. Children have a right to make representation about the quality of service they receive and to have redress to a formal complaints procedure.

If these principles are actively pursued - if we try our best to work in partnership with children and their families, and keep them informed - challenging and violent behaviour should reduce.

3. What are We Talking About? 

Most people think of violence as something that causes physical injury, but of course the emotional effects of a violent person’s actions have to be considered as well. If, as a member of staff, you are subject to such strong verbal attack that you become terrified for your safety, then violence has been done to you, even though no blows have been struck.

In fact, challenging behaviour and violence are part of the same continuum, which is represented diagrammatically below. The continuum may not define every occurrence - people act differently at different times and places - and guidelines cannot cover every conceivable situation. However, they do provide a tool that staff and managers can use to consider appropriate responses for individuals whose behaviour can present challenges and risks in a range of environments.

Click here to view the Violence and Challenging Behaviour Flowchart.

4. What can We Do About It?

Many of the jobs done by Children's Social Care staff carry an element of risk. But that risk can be managed so that the likelihood of violence or aggression is reduced. The level of risk can be ASSESSED and a PLAN put into place to help deal with it. The assessment and management of risk is a continuous process, which can be diagrammatically represented thus:

Caption: What can We Do About It?
Identify /Recognise that a problem exists
Evaluate the likelihood of an incident and what might happen
Consult with other staff and agencies, or whoever is involved
Decide on a course of action - the Risk Management Plan
Tell people about the Plan - including the child
Put Plan into action
Review it regularly to see if it works

Such a plan could be devised as part of staff supervision, and must be recorded on the child’s file as well as in supervision notes.

Devising a Risk Management Plan

  • The key to a Risk Management Plan is communication

Although aggressive and violent behaviour can happen “out of the blue”, in a large number of cases of violence the child has a history of aggression.

Therefore, the sharing of information between staff and with other agencies is vital to the assessment of risk. Any information shared must be relevant to the situation, but the child’s right to confidentiality must be judged against the rights to safety of both staff and service users. As always when recording information, careful distinction should be drawn between established fact and conjecture. Bear in mind that the child may well have a right of access to the information on file.

Staff need to be aware of the background, especially anything that may trigger challenging behaviour or violence. Any relevant information must be shared with all staff likely to be involved with the child. This is particularly important for staff who may work individually with a client, and for staff working in reception areas.

  • Careful attention should be paid to the environment in which work is being carried out. Furnishings can be carefully planned to reduce risk. Alarm and back-up systems can be introduced.
  • Individual workers can adopt methods which help AVOID violence and aggression.
  • Their approach can be modified to help reduce the likelihood of attack.

There are practical things that managers and their staff can do in each of these areas.


  • Make sure that information that a child may be challenging is clearly recorded.
  • Make sure that everyone who is likely to be involved has the level of risk explained to them, and kept regularly updated. This will include Operational Support staff, volunteer drivers and anyone else who may have contact with the potentially challenging child.
  • Make sure that the child presenting the risk is aware that there is a plan to deal with any difficulties they may present.


  • Children using our services, whether it be offices or establishments, are frequently under stress and may feel angry or frustrated. How they are received and how they perceive the environment may increase or reduce their agitation.
  • Clearly signposted areas and premises (written and visual aids) help reduce frustration and help facilitate access. If external doors are normally locked for security reasons explanatory notices and doorbells/call systems are essential.
  • Reception/shared areas should be comfortable and the general appearance should be of an acceptable standard. Staff working in reception facilities need to consider maintaining the correct balance between open communication and being protected from possible attack, i.e. some areas are protected by shatterproof glass. Waiting times should be kept to a minimum as this can increase the risk potential.
  • In community based offices and residential or day care establishments Line Managers, together with Office Managers, should devise and implement a system to ensure visitors/service users are quickly received by a member of staff.
  • Additionally line Managers should devise and implement a system where all staff can quickly summon assistance if the need arises.
  • Where an alarm system is installed all staff must be trained in its use and a response procedure should be implemented.
  • Consider the design of furniture, i.e. round tables not square, lightweight chairs should be avoided, ornaments/bric-a-brac that can be used for self abuse as well as a weapon should be limited.
  • Noise/heat/space are all factors that may need consideration in preventing challenging behaviour or violence. Important factors for individuals must be considered, i.e. too hot/too cold, too noisy/too isolated, too large/too confined space.
  • Staff should avoid one to one interviews with children known to have a background of violence, who present themselves in a clearly agitated or aggressive state.
  • When undertaking interviews the following points should be noted:
  • Sit or stand between the child and the door ensuring an escape route. (Sufficient space must be available to allow easy access for the child to leave without creating the impression of being trapped).
  • Keep a reasonable distance between yourself and the child.
  • In office interviews ensure there are no items in the room which can be thrown.
  • Consider tying back long hair and removing long earrings on pierced ears: even ties and scarves can become a danger.
  • Withdraw from a violent situation if you are able.
  • Consider the implications of repeated interruptions, either by the telephone ringing or people entering the room. This could lead to potential agitation for a child. However, this needs to be balanced against staff safety.

Should staff have concerns about environmental factors relating to the design and structure of the building they are advised to discuss the matter with their line manager who should carry out whatever action which is within their remit and resources to address the concerns.

Any matters which are not within the Manager’s remit and resources should be brought to the attention of their Line Manager. If there is a need for building work to be carried out a bid should be made to the Principal Officer, Resources, County Hall.


The key to effective prevention is avoidance. Through astute observation and recording of behaviour and responses, staff will be more able to predict an incident and the factors leading to it.

Incidents should always be recorded and an Antecedent, Behaviour and Consequence form has been devised to help with this. Although completed after an incident, the factors leading up to an incident can be analysed to enable the development of avoidance programme's. When looked at over time, the form will help in the recognition of patterns of behaviour, triggers and so on. (The “ABC” form is included within these guidelines as Appendix 2).

Although it will not always be possible to predict challenging behaviour or violence, it is however foreseeable and staff need to be aware of the contributory factors that may lead up to an incident.

Staff should be aware that their own body language and method of communication could provoke or exacerbate an incident. Additionally, feelings of fear or anger can be transmitted to a child thereby making a situation worse. Should staff experience difficulty in relating to a child, this should be raised in supervision with their Line Manager.

The following basic principles apply to prevention, and support good practice:

  • Staff should not work alone in isolated locations with children who are known to be violent. Where such situations are unavoidable, staff should take all reasonable precautions. Go in pairs if you can. Use a Personal Alarm, which can be provided by the department. With prior organisation, it should be possible to obtain the use of a mobile phone for some visits where the risk is felt to be particularly high.
  • Staff should request early assistance as this can reduce the possibility of an incident occurring. A request for early assistance is viewed as being good practice and not personal failure.
  • Staff should record their whereabouts and estimated time of return when working alone, in any situation, with any client. Line Managers should develop a response system in the event of non-return or no contact by the staff member.
  • Staff should withdraw from the situation when, due to the behaviour of a child, they have serious concerns for their personal safety. In such circumstances the member of staff must immediately advise their Line Manager to ensure that appropriate interventions are initiated to ensure that the child is not placed at risk. A plan to manage the risk in the future should then be drawn up:


Staff need to be aware of the possible impact they could create when approaching children or young people. Consideration and respect must be given to both verbal and non-verbal communication.

The following principles must govern staffs’ approach to children and, if followed, will assist in preventing challenging behaviour or violence:

  • Do not patronise, ridicule or verbally attack a child.
  • Do not attempt to get a child to comply with instructions by the use of strong, threatening language or tone; this is not acceptable.
  • Staff should try to remain calm, speak clearly and not raise their voice. Empathising with the child’s problem and beginning to generate possible solutions can ease tension.
  • Avoid confrontation where possible. If unavoidable try to ensure that support is available. Plan for it, if you can predict it.
  • Consider personal space. Keep a socially acceptable distance between yourself and the child.
  • Do not stand over or crowd a child. Consider at all times the signals your body language is communicating. A composed, relaxed and attentive posture invites open communication and promotes confidence.
  • Over-familiarity can be as provocative as an officious attitude. Both may demonstrate a lack of respect and value of a child.
  • If a child appears to be becoming agitated a calm, confident approach can reduce the tension.
  • Maintaining eye contact can be sign of listening. However, persistent eye contact can be interpreted as a sign of hostility.
  • When sitting with a child avoid positioning chairs directly facing each other. An angle of 45 degrees is less threatening. Ensure that the seats are of an equal height.
  • Staff should not adopt a “win at all costs” attitude. Negotiating a resolution that is acceptable to both parties should be the primary aim.

It is recognised that, even with care, planning and preparation, situations can still escalate into incidents of challenging behaviour or violence. Regardless of approach, the risk of violence is greater when:

  • A child is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Has a history of violence.

Sometimes you will need to seek advice and support form a manager or other colleague. This will not be seen as a sign of inability on your part. It does in fact demonstrate a professional attitude and an understanding of the responsibilities of ensuring the safety of yourself and others.

Signs to Watch For

A greater awareness of a child’s background and previous history of behavioural difficulties will help staff to avoid situations which may trigger challenging or violent behaviour. However, even without previous knowledge of a child, some types of behaviour may be the prelude to an incident. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but covers the most common signs that a child may be working up to a violent incident.

  • Threatening conduct
  • Child under the influence of alcohol, drugs or solvents
  • Over sensitive reaction to approaches by staff or other service users
  • Deliberately provocative conduct (e.g. verbal abuse, hiding property, etc)
  • Restless behaviour involving pushing, noisiness, jostling, pacing, rocking
  • Attention seeking conduct (if ignored)
  • Child being unnaturally quiet and withdrawn or alternatively excited and agitated (a noticeable behavioural change from the norm)
  • Inappropriate conversations or comments
  • A feeling of heightened tension within the office or establishment
  • Inappropriate and irritating touching of others (e.g. tapping, poking)
  • Increase in voice pitch and volume
  • Replying to questions abruptly, very often with gesticulations
  • Signs of muscular tension in the face and limbs. Wringing of hands, self-abuse
  • Pupils becoming dilated

Managing an Incident

Many potentially violent situations can be prevented from becoming actual violence. There is a range of skills that a person can develop in order to control and defuse violent situations. Central to them all is the ability to avoid reacting to aggression with aggression.

The skills need to be exercised at the right time and in the right order. There are three distinct stages in dealing with a challenging violent situation. The stages are:

  • Calming the child
  • Reaching the child
  • Controlling the situation

Calming the Child

This involves dealing with the person’s emotions rather than dealing directly with the content of his or her anger or reasons for it. These are best dealt with once the child is calm.

When attempting to calm a child the following good practice should be observed:

  • In almost all circumstances it will be helpful for staff to behave calmly themselves. Moving slowly and talking slowly can clearly help to give the impression of calmness.
  • Try to divert the child’s attention to an activity or subject they enjoy.
  • All elements of non-verbal communication (gesture, posture, facial expression, voice tone and volume) should project two messages; “I am not frightened of you” and “You don’t need to be frightened of me”.
  • Angry children should be encouraged to talk and should not be interrupted unnecessarily.
  • Often children become aggressive because they know no other way to draw attention to their situation, or feel they have no other way of expressing themselves. Such children will become calmer when reassured that they will be listened to and that everything possible will be done to help. Avoid direct “yes” and “no” answers. Such answers may seem to leave no option but further violence to an already angry person. It is better to say things like, “we’ll do all we can....” or “I’m sure we can sort this out....”
  • Take time, proceed slowly and try never to lose your own patience. Never rush when dealing with a potentially violent child. Rushing makes children feel threatened or mistreated. If allowed time, and with continued reassuring and calming behaviour, even very angry people may calm down. Give them the opportunity to do this.
  • If possible avoid audiences. Some children have trouble calming down when there are people watching. Try to find a private space, or ask others to leave. Bear in mind that you should have some back-up before doing this.
  • Even while trying to calm a child down be aware of your own safety. Keep at a safe distance, know your escape routes. Avoid dangerous objects or places. Avoid cornering an angry child.
  • A change of environment may also help the child to regain self-control. This calming factor may be, for example, going to a quieter room or going for a walk outside.

Reaching the Child

This is about making or building a relationship with the child and getting him or her to trust you.

An angry child may not hear what you say. Repeat simple instructions - calmly and clearly until the person has heard. Try not to raise your voice - shouting will only generate further angry responses.

Demonstrate that you can appreciate the child view of events. Give messages that show care and empathy. This builds trust and makes subsequent violence less likely.

  • Wherever possible find some common ground on which you can agree.
  • Do not belittle, mock or verbally attack the child. Never dismiss the child’s fears or anxieties. If they are groundless, though, don’t reinforce them, but stay neutral.
  • Continue to calm and reassure the child even after they appear to be less aggressive, for they could quickly flare up again.

Controlling or Changing the Situation

Only once the child has been “calmed” and “reached” is it appropriate to take control by changing the situation. Now that the child is calmer it will be safer to address the detailed content of the situation, to present facts and both sides of the argument.

Be prepared to begin the calming process all over again if the child becomes angry once more.

The change to be sought is one which allows a “way out” to the child that does not lead to winners and losers, or “scoring points”.

The following points should be noted:

  • Wherever possible, offer alternatives for the child to choose from that you are happy with (e.g. do you want to talk about it now, or would you like to talk about it later?).
  • If you expect the child to be unhappy with the final outcome of a situation it is better to prepare that child for the final outcome rather than to announce it and have to justify if afterwards.
  • Request what is called “delayed compliance”. This means giving the aggressive child time to answer or withdraw by saying things like, “There is no need for an answer straight away, let me know when you’ve made up your mind”. This is the opposite of giving ultimatums, which are likely to generate greater conflict.
  • No matter how threatening a child may have been, look for something that they have said or done that could be seen as positive. Praise should be given without patronising the child or condoning their threatening behaviour. There will be plenty of time later to address the threatening behaviour that you wish to condemn.

A member of staff’s primary aim when faced with the possibility of violence must be to reduce its likelihood. In some circumstances this can be best achieved by walking away from the situation. It can be good practice to do this. Letting the angry child walk away may also be good practice. Having other members of staff available may also reduce the likelihood of physical assault.

If violence is being directed solely at property, staff should try to contain it to a restricted area, but should not become involved in a physical struggle that may put themselves at risk.

5. What to do if Violence Occurs

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council has approved the techniques taught by Timian Training. Although physical procedures are taught it must be remembered that they are used only as a last resort and the major focus of the training by Timian is on prevention. Physical procedures are simple avoidance techniques allowing staff the opportunity to distance themselves from common attacks. A two person method of restraint is taught.

The following principles must be reinforced to prevent the need to utilise restraint techniques:

  • Violence should be avoided or prevented wherever possible
  • Personal safety is more important than property
  • Staff should not engage in the physical restraint of children unless it is immediately necessary for the protection of the child, the member of staff or another child or person
  • Only the minimum necessary force must be used to restrain a violent child

6. Unacceptable Interventions

As discussed earlier, everyone has the right in law to use reasonable force to protect themselves, to protect others and to protect property. The interpretation of reasonable will always be judged in relation to the threat/danger being repulsed. In most circumstances the following may be deemed as unreasonable and constitute an assault by staff:

Caption: Unacceptable Interventions
Choking Shaking
Smothering Slapping
Punching Throwing objects
Pinching Restricting movement, e.g. strapping
Pushing Securing into a chair  

As a general principle, it is not acceptable to lock a client in a room by themselves. This contributes to increasing the risk to the individual and could place staff at risk of liability to wrongful imprisonment.

Under very exceptional emergency circumstances, however, it may be undertaken if:

  • No other means of protection were available for self and others
  • The only alternative is considered to be the use of physical restraint
  • It represented the minimum force required for self defence and was the only action available to gain additional assistance 

  • That it was a temporary measure whilst assistance was called.

In such circumstances the member of staff’s Line Manager must be immediately advised and a written report be undertaken and forwarded to the Team Manager / Area Manager within one working day.

7. Violence Against Property   

If violence is only being directed against property, staff must make a professional judgement whether to intervene. If intervention is likely to increase the level of violence, result in injury or increase the risk of assault, it may be best practice to allow the behaviour to continue and attempt to contain its effects within the immediate vicinity. The likely danger to the child who is causing the damage should be weighed up. There is an obligation to prevent children from harming themselves as well as harming staff.

In such circumstances staff must consider whether, if they attempt intervention, they are confident of success in defusing the situation or would intervention result in escalation.

Although the safeguard and protection of property is important, it is secondary to the protection of yourself and others.

8. After an Incident

Dealing with Trauma

Anyone who has suffered shock and injury should receive medical attention as soon as possible, and where necessary, be transferred to a safe environment.

A person who has challenged may need time to calm down on their own, or may require reassurance and support, in order to deal with the traumatic effects.

Anyone who has suffered an assault, or is shaken by a violent outburst, requires immediate support. It will often be appropriate for a staff member to have a break from client contact and they may wish to be accompanied by a colleague. In such circumstances it should be the Line Manager’s responsibility to arrange cover within resource availability.

Talking Through the Incident

With the person who has challenged

Where appropriate, once the person has calmed down they should be given the opportunity to talk through the incident and helped to recognise what happened.

If the incident was the result of a disagreement about services received, or needs that have not been or are not being met, it may be necessary to inform the client about the Complaints Procedure.

With the staff involved

Following an incident it is normal for a member of staff to feel anger, fear, inadequacy, shame or violation.

These reactions are normal and should be expected and respected. Anticipation of these emotions by line management will ensure they are properly dealt with and the completion of the appropriate report forms should afford an opportunity for discussion. Supervision is important here, and affords the opportunity to raise the subject over a long period where this is necessary.

Inadequacy and failure are often felt by staff in these situations and clear statements should be given by Line Managers, that these feelings are not signs of professional shortcomings.

The staff member(s) involved may not be able, or may not wish, to talk through the incident with Line Managers immediately. However, they should be given the opportunity to speak to another skilled colleague within their work base, if they wish. A request for counselling may be made to Occupational Health.

With others who were present

The effects of challenging behaviour or violence on all those present at the incident should not be minimised. These must be recognised and the opportunity for debriefing offered. Managers should work together to ensure that staff from all sections of the department who may have been involved in an incident receive the attention and help they require.

Reporting to the Police

There is not, and cannot be, a general policy to prosecute, or not, in all instances. The decision to complain to the Police is for the member of staff to take. Line Managers will need to support employees and probably help with the decision as to whether the circumstances call for a complaint to be made to the Police. Such decisions need full consideration of all the known factors.

If such action is to be taken early report must be made to the Police and any evidence relating to the incident must be preserved. This may include a weapon, broken spectacles, bloodstains, car registration number, description of offender, etc. It is imperative that this report is made without delay.

Subsequent Action     

The Police may decide to caution or warn the offender or may institute proceedings which will be undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service, which also has the authority to discontinue proceedings commenced by the Police.

A further alternative is for employees to pursue their own private prosecution against the assailant but, again, the Crown Prosecution Service by the Police.

Nothing precludes victims pursuing their own claims for damages through the Civil Courts. Legal advice is available through Trades Unions, where this is appropriate.

The Responsibility of the Line Manager 

The Line Manager has ultimate responsibility for the support of the staff member who has been involved in a challenging or violent incident, and for all reporting to senior managers.

Following a violent incident, the Line Manager should arrange a meeting with the staff member involved as soon as possible, to discuss the events in detail. The purpose of this discussion will be to understand what took place, not to apportion blame.

Where violence has not occurred the responsibility for ensuring completion of the Minor Injury Form (MS/62) or Report of an Injury or Dangerous Occurrence (F2508) (if more than 3 days have been lost) Incident Report of Violence Against Staff (V/CB1) is the Line Manager’s. They should also ensure that the staff member completes a report for the client’s file, and fills in a diary sheet which details the circumstances.

Line Managers are encouraged to ensure that an Antecedent, Behaviour and Consequence Incident form is completed.

Although support for the member of staff who has been challenged will be the responsibility of all staff, the Line Manager can make arrangements for the individual(s) to receive counselling where this is felt to be appropriate. This can be arranged through Occupational Health.

Managers should be aware that exposure to Challenging Behaviour and Violent Incidents can have delayed/long term effects. These could be manifested in increased sickness or poor performance levels and should be monitored. Concerns should be discussed with individuals through supervision and further counselling needs should be brought to the attention of Occupational Health.

Where an incident involving assault or injury occurs it should be standard practice to initiate a formal review of the Care Plan with the child, unless this is a repeating behaviour pattern which has already been considered at a review within the last three months. Review of a child Care Plan may be appropriate following other incidents of challenging behaviour. The decision on this will be taken by the Line Manager after consultation with other staff responsible for the case. The review will also consider the need for the allocation of additional resources to enable the further implementation of the plan. The plan of action that results should also be discussed with the Team Manager / Area Manager responsible.

Restriction/Suspension of a Service

Any decision to restrict or suspend services as a result of an incident is the responsibility of the Team Manager / Area Manager.

To assist with this decision making it is essential that staff comply with all required reporting arrangements in accordance with procedures. This process contributes to minimising risk towards colleagues and other clients and assists with protecting the challenging/violent client.

9. Training

Specific training is provided through the Training Section and Managers are expected to support staff with their personal development. This training is available for all staff who, as part of their duties, come into contact with children, adults and other members of the public and consequently may be subjected to incidents of challenging behaviour or violence.

The context of training provided will vary with staff receiving training appropriate to the likely level of risk within their normal working environment.

The aim of the departmental training programme is to:

  • Raise awareness amongst all staff within Child Care Services of situations in which challenging behaviour or violence may occur
  • Explore and identify potential risks which may contribute to incidents
  • Identify possible indicators and avoidance strategies relevant to the client group
  • Develop monitoring practices
  • Raise awareness of policies and procedures
  • Enable staff and managers to develop work base support networks for victims

Appendix 1: The Legal Framework

The act of assault could include:

  • A threat. For example a gun (even a replica) might be pointed at you. This would constitute an assault. Words alone cannot constitute an assault, but can constitute other offences which the Police may investigate.
  • Attempted personal violence. If someone threw a stone at you, even though it missed an assault may have taken place if you apprehended the possibility of immediate personal violence.
  • Actual battery. A personal contact, to the slightest degree. Even a push can constitute battery in the right context.

The key factor as to whether an action constitutes an assault is “did the victim think that violence was about to take place?".

How far can you go in response to violence, or the threat of it? In order to combat the threat of violence, the Criminal Law Act 1967 says:

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances, in the prevention of crime, or affecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or persons unlawfully at large".

The golden rule to remember here is that if an assault or battery is necessary in self-defence, it is only lawful if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances. As an example, if you were being verbally abused, it would not be lawful to hit someone to make them stop.

The criminal law provides a hierarchy of offences of assault ranging from murder to common assault. In practice, most assaults to staff will be one of two types; Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (AOBH) or Common Assault.

AOBH is “any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim”, and includes any hysterical or nervous condition resulting from an assault.

Common Assault is the most appropriate offence where the injury consists of little more than reddening of the skin, minor cuts and bruises, pushing and shoving.

If reported, the Police will investigate both of these offences, and have the power to either charge alleged offenders or report them for summons, the case being presented at court by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Appendix 2: Guidelines for Completion of ABC (Incident) Charts

Caption: Appendix 2 table 1

What is an ABC Chart?   

An ABC Chart provides information of all the environmental factors which may influence a behaviour - the time of the day, the people around, their interaction, activity and demands made on the person. The Chart provides an event recording of the behaviour and can therefore be a baseline for measuring the total number of episodes. An ABC can be used to help inform the future needs and services required by an individual.

Caption: Appendix 2 table 2

A - Antecedent: In the Section for Antecedent consider the following to complete:-

  1. What day is it?
  2. What time did the incident take place?
  3. Where did the incident take place? (i.e. kitchen, bedroom, office, group room, other location).
  4. Who else was around? i.e. other client, staff, visitor.
  5. What happened immediately before the incident? i.e. level of attention the person was receiving, or had they been on their own for a period of time?
  6. Was the person engaged in an activity or not?
  7. What demands were being made of the person at the time? i.e. working with staff or involvement with other clients. Had the client been asked to move?
  8. Was it during the meal time?
  9. Was the environment very noisy, hot, cold, crowded etc?

Caption: Appendix 2 table 3

B - Behaviour: In the Section for Behaviour consider the following to complete:-

  1. How did the behaviour start?
  2. Where there any signs or warnings? i.e. did the client show signs of distress (body language)?
  3. What exactly happened? i.e. use clear descriptions (he slapped me on the leg, she screamed and banged her head on the table).
  4. How long did the incident last?
  5. Was anyone physically injured or hurt? Was any property damaged?
  6. How was the behaviour managed during the incident? i.e. staff involved (how many). Did a calm response by staff have an effect on the incident?

Caption: Appendix 2 table 4

C - Consequences: In the Section for consequences consider the following to complete:-

  1. What happened immediately after the incident? i.e. how was the person behaving after the incident, did they calm down or did they remain agitated. Did they explain/indicate the reason for the incident or did you not discover the reason? talk to staff on earlier shift).
  2. What were the reactions of people around?
  3. How was the behaviour managed after the incident? i.e. was the person taken to a quiet place, were they immediately involved in another activity?
  4. Was the incident discussed with the person and resolved to the satisfaction of both parties?
  5. Were the Police involved/notified?
  6. Did anyone require medical treatment?
  7. Were there any restrictions placed on the person due to the incident? i.e. criminal charges, damage to property - payment for (with agreement with client), suspension from an activity?
  8. Who else informed (e.g. Line Manager, Parents/Carers, Keyworker)?

Appendix 3: Challenging Behaviour Action Decision

Click here to view Appendix 5: Challenging Behaviour Action Decision.

Guidance Notes


The Control of Children in Public Care: Interpretation of the Children Act 1989.

Social Services Inspectorate, 20.2.1997.

Guidance for Managers, Residential Staff and Carers on the control of children in children’s homes.


To deliver services to “looked after children” which ensure that they are supported and protected.


Those who “look after children” have a responsibility to provide direction and guidance for the child and accordingly the right to control, direct or guide the child’s upbringing in a manner that is consistent with the child’s stage of development and specific circumstances. There is also an additional responsibility to protect children from coming to harm and doing all in their power to protect them from harm.

The local authority, on the making of a care order, shares Parental Responsibility with respect to the care and control of the child. Whilst the local authority does not assume Parental Responsibility if the child is accommodated under section 20 (Children Act 1989). It does not weaken the authority of carers to control children, that is, those who have the day to day care of the child may do whatever is reasonable in all the circumstances to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child (Section 3)5)).

It is therefore important that parents are aware that should their child be accommodated then the Local Authority carers will be required to exercise control in a manner which promotes the child’s welfare and good order. Parents should be consulted regarding what their wishes may be, but they do not have the ability to constrain the day to day carers such that they are prevented from controlling the child. If parents insist on conditions, which are judged to be inconsistent with the duty of the local authority towards the child being looked after, then consideration is needed to be given as to whether the threshold criteria for a Care Order is established.

Children’s wishes and feelings should be considered. However, the wishes and feelings of children can be overridden in situations that effect them if this is necessary to safeguard their welfare.

Young People Going Out Against Advise or Instructions

The guidance in LAC (93)13 states:-

  • Staff can and must intervene immediately to try to prevent young people leaving the children’s home when there are grounds for believing that they are putting themselves or others at risk, or are likely, seriously to damage property.
  • In assessing whether harm is likely Staff must take into account all the circumstances, that is, the child’s own background and the reasons why he/she became “looked after”.
  • Staff have the responsibility and the authority to interpret “harm” widely and to anticipate when it is likely to happen.
  • Persuasion and the engagement of children in more structured and disciplined lives should be the first method of intervening to prevent a child/young person from leaving a unit.
  • For guidance (LAC)93)13 Section 5) states clearly that physical restraints can and should be used. It is also reasonable to temporarily bolt a door to restrict a young person’s mobility, or in order to win some time to call for help from other staff. If the particular issue of confrontation continues and the child does not respond to the physical restraint or the temporary loss of mobility, staff will need to consider whether to apply for the child to be cared for in secure accommodation.

Physical Restraints

  • The proper use of physical restraint, which should be responsible in all circumstances, requires skill and judgement.
  • Staff should make every effort to secure the presence of other staff to ensure that any action taken is both safe and successful.
  • Staff should not try to restrain a young person without proper assistance.
  • Training for staff who care for children with behavioural difficulties needs to address the issues of implementing methods of, e.g. potentially difficult situations, care, control and intervention.


  • A permanent separate record of incidents involving the use of physical restraints should be kept as it should be regarded as a disciplinary measure within the meaning of regulation 8(4) of the Children’s Homes Regulations 1981.
  • The guidance in LAC(93)13 states that this information is to be used for monitoring purposes for example, to monitor trends over times.
  • The means of recording physical restraint for monitoring separately from other disciplinary measures is a matter of administrative convenience only.
  • Where younger children or those with physical or learning disabilities are accommodated there is a high level of physical contact between staff and children. Locally agreed definitions of what amounts to physical restraint will be necessary so that routine holding to guide children or secure their safety are excluded from this requirement.


Managers should provide staff with regular training and supervision so that they can fully meet the challenges posed by this aspect of their work.