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5.1.1 Behaviour Management


 This Guidance is Applicable to staff/carers in three different contexts:

  1. In children’s homes and foster placements;
  2. For children with disabilities receiving short breaks and shared care placements;
  3. In the community when working with children and their families.

These principles apply to all staff caring for children. The guidance should be read in conjunction with the following procedures:

Behaviour Management Procedure

Sanctions Procedure

Physical Intervention Procedure

Incidents Guidance


In December 2013, this chapter was updated throughout - but specifically in respect of physical interventions.


  1. Encouraging and Rewarding Children 
  2. Planning for Success
  3. Reminders and Reprimands  
  4. Sanctions 
  5. Physical Interventions (Including Restraint) 

    Flowchart: Encouraging and Rewarding Success

1. Encouraging and Rewarding Children

Whilst children bring their own values and behaviours to placements, staff and carers play a key role in influencing children.

The culture of the home, generated by the adults living or working there, is crucial.

A restrictive, unsupportive, discouraging and punishing culture will result in instability, hostility and, possibly, severe disruption.

Where children live in homes which have clear, fair boundaries, where they feel safe, encouraged and appropriately rewarded, they will thrive and do well. Such homes will also experience less instability and disruption.

It is for the adults in each home to create their own culture, but the following may be helpful. The following should be read in conjunction with Children's Services Policy, Values and Principles Procedure.

  1. Listen to and empathise with children, respect their thoughts and feelings and take their wishes into consideration;
  2. Look for things that are going well, or any step in the right direction, and appropriately reward it;
  3. Rewards should be used in a creative and diverse way, specific to children’s needs, capabilities and interests;
  4. This may mean that children are rewarded with toys, games, activities or monetary rewards;
  5. But all ‘tangible’ rewards should be accompanied by use of ‘non tangible’ encouragement and support - by staff and carers demonstrating to children that they have done well;
  6. Such ‘non tangible’ rewards include praising, smiling, positive touch and hugging children;
  7. Children usually benefit, early on, from rewards which may appear to outweigh that which is expected. This is normal; over time rewards can be more relevant as children’s self esteem and skills improve. For example:
    1. Children who have few social or life skills and whose self esteem and confidence is low may require forms of encouragement and reward which are intensive, frequent or even excessive in order to help/remind them that they are doing well and appreciated;
    2. A child who has previously been unable to get up for school may be offered an present or activity for getting up on time for a few days.
  8. Over time, as children achieve what is expected, such rewards should be reduced or children should be expected to achieve more for the same or a similar reward.

2. Planning for Success

Click here to view Flowchart on encouraging and rewarding success.

Where behaviour is the cause for concern it is critical that plans are established to manage and hopefully change the behaviour.

Consistency is the key, where staff/carers manage behaviour inconsistently, little if any progress will be made; it may result in more disruption.

Where staff/carers work together, improvements will be made.

The setting of objectives or expectations must not be ad hoc or unplanned. It should be part of a Strategy, depending on children’s assessed needs, interests and capabilities.

Planning is critical; particularly where children’s behavioural needs are complex or where behaviours give rise to serious concern, such as violence, drug or substance misuse, self harming, bullying.

In such situations a Behaviour Management Plan should be drawn. 

Behaviour Management Plans should summarise how behaviours should be managed, including the Strategies that will be adopted in managing the behaviours; they should also state how acceptable behaviours will be encouraged and promoted. 

These Strategies can include de-escalations and techniques, Physical Interventions, Sanctions and other measures; for example the use of incentive or reward programmes, charts etc.

Children should be involved in drawing up Behaviour Management Plans and should understand the relevance of them; though this may not always be possible, for example, where the child has severe learning disabilities.

Children should be also be capable of achieving what is expected; maybe with help or support from an adult or mentor, which may include another child.

Expectations placed upon children should never be beyond their capabilities; start small and encourage steps in the right direction.

Over time, children should be encouraged and supported to acquire the skills and level of responsibility and freedom which is within their capabilities and understanding; in turn, this will improve their self image and confidence. 

If children are capable of it, they must be involved in monitoring and reviewing their plans - and in agreeing new objectives and strategies.

3. Reminders and Reprimands


Whilst it is important to reward acceptable behaviour, it is also critical to manage unacceptable or disruptive behaviour in the same, positive and consistent manner.

Matters of concern must be raised and discussed with the child, with a view to giving the child a fresh start - with support and encouragement.

If misbehaviour is persistent or serious, other strategies may have to be adopted; but minor or non - persistent behaviours should result in staff/carers reminding or advising children.

This is a strategy adopted successfully by the criminal justice system, assuming that children respond positively to cautions accompanied by active encouragement and support to put things right.

Reminders and advice should be clear and to the point, with clarity about:

  • The behaviours which are unacceptable;
  • The impact or influence that the behaviour is having on the child or others;
  • Clarity about what is accepted;
  • Help, advice and encouragement to put things right;
  • A Fresh Start with no recriminations or further reminders.

Staff/carers should employ a range of non-verbal and verbal techniques to show their disapproval; but they must avoid moody looks, innuendo and public scolding. 

Any step in the right direction must be approved of and rewarded whilst problems should be openly discussed and strategies for change identified and encouraged. 

The overall strategy should be to help the child do well.


Where behaviour is persistently or seriously unacceptable, it may be appropriate to reprimand children.

However reprimands may only be used in the following circumstances:

  • Where children are capable of behaving acceptably and, understand what is expected;
  • Where children have persistently or seriously failed to do as capable/required/expected;
  • Where nothing else can be done to change the behaviour, for example, where encouraging and rewarding acceptable behaviour.

If it appears that a Reprimand is justified, it should preferably be delivered in private, on the spot or as soon after the misbehaviour as possible.

Reprimands do not have to be loud but the person delivering them should appear assertive and ‘in charge’, with the adult stating clearly what is wrong, how s/he and others are affected by the misbehaviour and - critically - what should be done to put things right.

The person delivering the reprimand should provide the child with an opportunity to explain but should not necessarily expect an apology. However, there should be clarity for the child that improvement is expected - and as necessary the adult should discuss what support and encouragement will be given to put things right.

An effective reprimand is over and done within a few minutes - and then the child should be given a fresh start.

4. Sanctions

This guidance should be read in conjunction with Sanctions Procedure.

Guidance on use of Sanctions

Sanctions can be very effective but, before imposing them, think about it. 

Children may have had their fill of sanctions, usually imposed inconsistently, unfairly or as acts of revenge. They may have been sanctioned or punished inappropriately; blamed for other people’s misbehaviour or mistreatment.

Before imposing sanctions, adults should do all they can to support and encourage children to do well.

If children do not behave acceptably, strategies should be adopted that are encouraging and rewarding.

Rather than noticing and sanctioning misbehaviour it is always better to notice and reward good behaviour - or any step in the right direction.

For example, it may be more effective to allow a child to have use of a video or TV at bedtime for getting up on time, rather than taking the TV away for getting up late. Same deal, different meaning! 

The former is discouraging and causes resentment; the latter is encouraging, can improve self - esteem and relationships between children and staff/carers.

Be creative, think outside the box!

If children continue to behave in unacceptable ways, they should be reminded about what is expected and given further encouragement to get it right.

If misbehaviour persists or is serious, effective use of reprimands can act as a disincentive or firm reminder. If this does not work, sanctions may be effective.

Where sanctions are used they must be reasonable and the minimum necessary to achieve the objective. Also, there should be a belief that the sanction will have the desired outcome - increasing the possibility that acceptable behaviour will follow.

If Sanctions are imposed, adults should apply the following principles:

  1. Sanctions must be the exception, not the rule. A last resort;
  2. Sanctions must not be imposed as acts of revenge or retaliation;
  3. Think before imposing the sanctions; don’t apply it in the heat of the moment;
  4. Sanctions may only be imposed upon children for persistent or serious misbehaviour; where reminders and reprimands have already failed or are likely to fail;
  5. Sanctions should only be used if there is a reasonable chance they will have the desired effect of making the point and in reducing or preventing further unacceptable behaviour. Therefore sanctions should be part of a planned approach;
  6. Before applying any sanction, make sure the child is aware that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and, if possible, warn him/her that sanctions will be applied if the unacceptable behaviour continues;
  7. It is the certainty not the severity of sanctions that is important. Staff/carers need to be sure that the sanction can be fully imposed;
  8. Sanctions should only last as long as they need to, allowing the child the opportunity to make a fresh start as quickly as possible;
  9. Sanctions should always be proportionate to the unacceptable behaviour and relevant to the sanction and imposed within a timely manner.

Approved Sanctions

Certain sanctions are approved to be imposed on Looked After Children; they are outlined in Sanctions Procedure.

Non-Approved Sanctions

The following sanctions are non-approved, which means they may never be imposed upon Children within Lincolnshire Children's Services:

  1. Any form of corporal punishment; i.e. any intentional application of force as punishment, including slapping, punching, rough handling and throwing missiles;
  2. Any sanction relating to the consumption or deprivation of food or drink;
  3. Any restriction on a child’s contact with his or her parents, relatives or friends; visits to the child by his or her parents, relatives or friends; a child’s communications with any of the persons listed, below; or his or her access to any telephone helpline providing counselling or advice for children;
  4. This does not prevent contact or communication being restricted in exceptional circumstances, where it is necessary to do so to protect the child or others. See the following:

    Telephones, Mobile Phones and Letters Procedure;

    Contact with Parents and Siblings Procedure;

    Contact with Relatives or Friends Procedure.
  5. Any requirement that a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;
  6. The use or withholding of medication or medical or dental treatment;
  7. The intentional deprivation of sleep;
  8. The modification of a child’s behaviour through bribery or the use of threats;
  9. Any sanction used intentionally or unintentionally which may humiliate a child or could cause them to be ridiculed;
  10. The imposition of any fine or financial penalty, other than a requirement for the payment of a reasonable sum by way of reparation;
  11. The Court may impose fines upon children which staff should encourage and support them to repay;
  12. Any intimate physical examination of a child;
  13. The withholding of aids/equipment needed by a disabled child;
  14. Any measure which involves a child in the imposition of any measure against any other child; or the Sanction of a group of children for the behaviour of an individual child;
  15. Swearing at or the use of foul, demeaning or humiliating language or measures.

The persons with whom the child may have contact, in relation to the above, are:

  1. Any solicitor or other adviser or Advocate acting for the child;
  2. Any officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service appointed for the child;
  3. Any social worker for the time being assigned to the child by his placing authority;
  4. Any person appointed as an Independent Person in respect of the Social Care Complaints Procedure;
  5. Any person appointed as an Independent Visitor;
  6. Any person representing the Regulatory Authority;
  7. Any representative from the local authority in whose area the child is placed;
  8. Any person with delegated authority from the Secretary of State to conduct an inspection of the home where the child is placed.

5. Physical Interventions (Including Restraint)

It is important to determine whether there are any medical conditions, disabilities, injury or pregnancy  which might place the child at risk should particular techniques or methods of physical intervention be used. If so, this must be drawn to the attention of those working with or looking after the child and it must be stated in the child’s plan. If in doubt, medical advice must be sought.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with Physical Intervention Procedure.

Physical Interventions are interventions that employ a level of reasonable physical force to protect a child or others from injury or to protect property from being damaged.

Definition of Restrictive Physical Intervention

Restrictive Physical intervention refers to the actions by one or more persons that restricts the movements of another. Physical intervention implies the restriction of a person’s movement, which is maintained against resistance. It is therefore qualitatively different from other forms of physical contact such as manual prompting, physical guidance or simply support, which might be used in teaching or therapy. (Physical Interventions A Policy Framework, BILD/NAS).

  • 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;
  • The locking of a door in order to contain or prevent a child from leaving to maintain a safe environment or restrict access to a room or area;
  • Any technique which leads to the child or young person being held in a 'prone' or face down position.

The intention is to restrict the child’s mobility. The other categories of Physical Intervention provide the child with varying degrees of freedom and mobility.

Other Types of Physical Intervention are:

  1. Holding: This includes any measure or technique involving the child being held firmly by one person, so long as the child retains a degree of mobility and can disengage if determined enough;
  2. Positive Touch: This 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: A form of intervention using no contact, such as giving verbal instruction/direction, 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.

Who may use Physical Intervention

Under normal circumstances, only staff/carers who have been trained to an appropriate level may use Physical Intervention. 

However, in an emergency, the use of physical intervention by other people may be justified if it is the only way to prevent significant injury or significant or sustained damage to property.

In these circumstances, the interventions used must consistent with the procedures outlined in this manual - and the guidance set out in this chapter. 

Whenever possible, the techniques used should reflect the person’s previous training in the appropriate use of physical interventions.

In any case, the techniques used should:

  1. Not impede the process of breathing;
  2. Not be used in a way which may be interpreted as sexual;
  3. Not intentionally inflict pain or injury;
  4. Avoid vulnerable parts of the body, e.g. the neck, chest and sexual areas;
  5. Avoid hyperextension, hyper flexion and pressure on or across the joints;
  6. Not employ potentially dangerous positions.

Planning Ahead - Care and Placement Planning

It is accepted that Physical Intervention will often be used reactively, by adults faced with situation posing potential risks of injury or damage to property.

However, research evidence shows that injuries to adults and children are more likely to occur when Physical Intervention is used to manage events which have not been foreseen, and for this reason great care should be taken to avoid situations where unplanned Physical Interventions might be needed.


As a matter of routine, preferably at point of referral or placement or as soon as possible thereafter, managers must conduct Risk Assessments to determine whether the child’s placement poses any risk of injury or damage to property - to the subject child or others living in the home. 

Alternatively, such risk assessment and planning should occur after incidents where Physical Intervention may have been applied.

If continuing risks exist, managers must establish a plan outlining the Strategies to be adopted to reduce or prevent the behaviour occurring.

As far as possible, as described elsewhere in this manual, those strategies must avoid the use of Physical Interventions. 

For example, the best way of helping a child to tolerate other children without being violent may be for an adult or mentor (another child, for example) to ‘shadow’ the child to help him/her.

However, such plans should include contingencies outlining whether Physical Intervention should be used; and advising the adults which techniques may be beneficial.

These plans and strategies, if possible, should be shared with the child concerned and should be reviewed - either routinely or after serious incidents have occurred.

Justification for using Physical Intervention

There are different justifications for Restraint, intended to overpower a child, and other, less intrusive forms of Physical Intervention.

Restraint is the intentional use of force with a view to overpowering a child, and therefore may only be justified where the likely injury is SIGNIFICANT or the likely damage to property is SERIOUS. These terms are defined in The meaning of (Significant) Injury and (Serious) Damage to Property, below.

Other forms of Physical Intervention, which are less intrusive by degrees, such as Holding, Positive Touching and Presence, may be justified to prevent Injury or damage to property which is less than significant or serious; which is also defined below.

However, for any form of Physical Intervention to be justified, the person applying it must be satisfied of the following (more detailed guidance is contained below): 

  1. That injury or damage to property is likely to happen in the predictable future, see The meaning of ‘Predictable Future’ below;
  2. And that immediate necessary action to reduce or prevent the likelihood of the injury or damage, see The meaning of ‘Immediately Necessary’;
  3. And that the use of physical intervention is a last resort, see The meaning of ‘last resort’ below;
  4. And that the amount of force used is the minimum necessary to achieve the objective, see The meaning of Minimum Force below.

The meaning of (Significant) Injury and (Serious) Damage to Property

There are differing justifications for the use of Restraint and other Physical Interventions.

Restraint is a form of Physical Intervention used as a positive application of force to control movement with the intention of safeguarding people and property and should therefore only be used where the likely injury is SIGNIFICANT or the likely damage to property is SERIOUS.

Other forms of Physical Intervention, which are less intrusive by degrees, such as Presence, Positive Touch and Holding, may be justified where the likely injury or damage to property is less significant or serious.

It is not possible to provide an exhaustive definition given the variety of situations that adults may face or how they should act. It is for the adult(s) on the spot to decide themselves and act accordingly - in keeping with procedures and guidance set out in this manual and the training they have received. 

However, Injury and Damage (which is not significant or serious) may justify less intrusive Physical Interventions such as Presence, Positive Touch or Holding include the following:

  1. Minor injuries caused to the child or others;
  2. Wilful or reckless behaviour which may result in the child/others being at risk of harm;
  3. The likelihood of criminal offences not involving violence or potential risk of injury;
  4. Minor drug or alcohol misuse;
  5. Minor damage to property belonging to the child, the authority or others.

For Restraint to be justified (the use of Physical Intervention as a positive application of force to control movement with the intention of safeguarding people and property) the likely injury must be significant and the likely damage must be serious. 

Significant Injury is broadly defined as actual or grievous bodily harm, physical or sexual abuse, risking lives of or injury to, the self or others by wilful or reckless behaviour and self-poisoning. This may include the following:

  1. Abduction;
  2. Actual and grievous bodily harm or more serious violent offences;
  3. Attempted suicide or death;
  4. Significant Self Harming;
  5. Contact with person suspected or known risk to children;
  6. Poisoning;
  7. Injury requires medical attention;
  8. Serious drug or alcohol misuse;
  9. Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
  10. Theft/being carried in a stolen vehicle, or other criminal offences of a serious nature;
  11. Serious damage to property.

For any form of Physical Intervention to be justified those using it must firstly believe that injury or damage is likely in the predictable future.

The meaning of ‘Predictable Future’

For any form of Physical Intervention to be justified, there must be a risk the injury or damage is likely in the predictable future.

The fact that injury or damage has already occurred would not be a justification for Physical Intervention UNLESS there is a risk that further injury or damage would follow if adults did not act. For example, a child may break a small window, which may be interpreted as a minor misdemeanour and unlikely to be repeated; therefore Physical Intervention may not be justified. 

However, if the child is likely to use fragments of the glass as a weapon to cause significant injury to him/herself or another person, the use of physical intervention, even restraint, may be justified in order to protect the person(s) and confiscate the glass.

Adults must not only believe that the injury or damage is likely in the predictable future but also that action is immediately necessary.

The meaning of ‘Immediately Necessary’

Immediately Necessary means that staff/carers believe it is necessary to act, at the time, to prevent a child or others from being injured or to prevent property from being damaged at some time in the Predictable Future.

If at all possible, all the adults caring for the child should consult each other before acting; even if there is an agreed plan or strategy in place to manage the behaviour.

However, if this is not possible, the adults must act  on the spot - as far as possible within the parameters of the child’s Care Plan, Placement Plan, Behaviour Management Plan or other plan in place.

If no plan/strategy is in place, the adults must act in the best interest of the child  within the procedures and guidance in this manual their duty of care to the child as a social care worker and the training they have received.

Before acting, the adults must satisfy themselves that their actions are necessary as a Last Resort.

The meaning of ‘last resort’

Last resort means:

  • That all other non-physical methods of persuasion, diffusion and re-direction failed;


  • That all available non-physical methods would not work in the circumstances.

The other methods, which may work in the circumstances, can include less intrusive Physical contact. However, adults may not use any Physical Interventions unless they are satisfied that non - physical interventions have failed or would not work in the circumstances.

If possible, adults must adopt verbal and non-verbal skills, engaging children, calming, reaching; using humour, the intervention of colleagues; negotiating, listening, distraction techniques or leaving the situation if it works.

If these actions are not working (or adults believe they would not work if tried) they may use Physical contact or physical Interventions.

However, adults who use Restrictive Physical contact before trying or considering non - physical methods leave themselves open to criticism and could be subject to complaint, disciplinary action and involvement of the Police or Child Protection agencies. 

Also, if Restrictive Physical Intervention is required, adults may only use the minimum force necessary to achieve the objective.

The meaning of Minimum Force

If Physical Intervention is immediately necessary (see The meaning of ‘Immediately Necessary’), as a last resort (see The meaning of ‘last resort’), the force used must be the minimum necessary to achieve the objective.

The minimum necessary means exactly that: 

The amount of force used must be commensurate with the desired outcome and the specific circumstances in terms of intensity and duration. 

For example, it may be necessary to hold or  use physical Intervention with a child for a short period whilst s/he calms down sufficiently to re-join a group or activity; or to temporarily block or prevent a child from leaving the home to give staff/carers time to divert the child’s attention from absconding.

It may also be appropriate for a person to block or prevent a child’s mobility or movement using Physical Interventions whilst help is summoned, then giving the opportunity for the intervention to be reduced when they arrive.

In all cases, the measures must be used for the minimum or shortest time necessary; and the amount of force used must be the minimum that is necessary. The possible adverse effects associated with the measures used be less severe that the adverse consequences which may have occurred without it.

The minimum necessary may mean that proximity or use of physical presence will work in the circumstances; and that it will not be necessary to use more intrusive form of Physical Intervention.

In any case, caution should be exercised in releasing or reducing interventions too early; to do so may escalate rather than calm the situation. Disengagement should normally be undertaken in a planned and controlled manner.

If it is not possible to consult others before acting, the onus is on adults, on the spot, to decide what level of intervention is appropriate in the circumstances; considering, for example:

  1. Any agreed strategy or plan that may exist for managing a given situation;
  2. The age, size and ability of the child and person managing the behaviour;
  3. The understanding of the child and ability to make informed decisions;
  4. Any disabilities or medical conditions the child may be suffering;
  5. The abilities, skills of the person(s) managing the incident, and the training they have undertaken;
  6. The emotional and mental state of the child; and whether the child is under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances;
  7. The child’s background, history of using violence etc.

Whatever interventions or measures are taken, the adults must not place themselves in a position where anyone’s safety is seriously compromised. In such circumstances they should call for help, maybe from the police, or retreat if that is the only safe option open to them.

Use of Physical Intervention as a Sanction

Physical Intervention may not be used as a sanction.

Using Physical intervention to prevent a child from leaving

Physical Intervention may be used to prevent a child from absenting him/herself in the following circumstances:

To prevent any child from leaving where there is a likelihood of Significant Injury or Serious Damage to Property at some time in the predictable future. (see The meaning of (Significant) Injury and (Serious) Damage to Property).

Physical Intervention may include the locking of a door temporarily to prevent a child from leaving; further guidance on such measures, are contained in Physical Intervention Procedure.

Using other, less restrictive forms of Physical contact to prevent a child from leaving

  1. Measures may include the locking of a door temporarily to restrict a child’s mobility or to limit access to other areas and will need to have a member of staff with the child;
  2. Such measures may be appropriate in the following circumstances:
    • Where a child aged 12 or under persistently attempts to leave the home in the evening against the instructions of the adults, where these instructions are based on a considered and reasoned view that the child’s welfare is likely to be prejudiced or s/he is likely to come to harm;
    • Where a child with significant impaired understanding of the risks to their welfare attempts to leave the home against the instructions of the adults;
    • Where a teenager is known to be engaged in vice or criminal activity or otherwise known to be under negative influence or be at risk of harming him/herself or others.

In these and other similar circumstances which do not necessarily constitute Significant Injury or Serious Damage to Property (see The meaning of (Significant) Injury and (Serious) Damage to Property) adults must first try persuasion and patient engagement in trying to prevent children from leaving; but if these actions fail or it is believed they would fail adults can use their presence, positive touch or holding to prevent children in these circumstances from leaving. 

However, the Physical contact used must be used as a Last Resort (see The meaning of ‘last resort’) and must be proportional to the risks.

If the child persisted in the circumstances and there was no risk of significant injury or serious damage to property the adult may have to allow the child to leave. 

Also see the Child Protection Procedures.

Enacting compliance

Physical intervention may not be used simply to enforce compliance or in response to challenging behaviour unless the behaviour gives rise to the expectation of injury or damage to property. 

Staff and Carers shall use Positive Behaviour and Relation Techniques, if a child is arguing or being offensive toward another child or others including the adults looking after them, it may be appropriate to remonstrate, caution or reprimand the child; it may be appropriate to impose a sanction.

If a child is refusing to leave a room, and the adults suspect that if the child did not leave, injury or damage to property would follow in the predictable future, they may be justified in using their presence or other less intrusive forms of physical  contact to guide or re-direct the child into doing as required.

An alternative would be to ask colleagues to remove or withdraw the other children present.

Locking of Doors

Procedures on Locking of Doors, are contained in Physical Intervention Procedure.

Flowchart: Encouraging and Rewarding Success