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3.11.4 Searching Children and their Belongings


This procedure applies to children placed in foster and residential care managed by the authority, but the principles apply to the placement of every Looked After Child. Therefore, where a Looked After Child is placed with parents, relatives or friends or in placements not managed by the authority, the social worker must ensure these or other adequate procedures are applied.


Searching, Screening and Confiscation (Department for Education, 2014)


Updated in June 2014 to add a link to 'Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance' (Department for Education, 2014).


  1. Searching  
  2. Notifications  
  3. Recording  

1. Searching

It may be appropriate to conduct a search of a child or a child’s belongings if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has concealed weapons, illegal drugs, other dangerous items or stolen goods and it is unlikely that the items will not be given up without searching for them. Such searches include searches of children’s bedrooms.

Preferably, the child should agree to the search; but if agreement is not forthcoming or the child is absent and cannot be consulted, a search may be undertaken without the child’s co-operation or without consultation. In situations where it may be expected that the young person will react violently to the prospect of the room search, carers should work with the child’s social worker/shift leader to assess the level of risk and to take steps to protect the staff and the young person.

Any search carried out without the child’s agreement may only be undertaken where it is necessary to do so to prevent Significant Injury/Serious Damage to Property or if is believed that a criminal offence has occured.

The child must be informed at the first possible instance of what has happened.

If the child physically resists in any way and there is an immediate risk of Significant Injury or Serious Damage to Property the staff/carer should use appropriate physical intervention or contact the Police. Otherwise, the on call manager and/or the child’s social worker should be contacted for advice.

Please see the following Chapters:

Physical Intervention Procedure

Contacting the Police Procedure

If a child is searched, only outer garments may be searched. More intimate searches may only be conducted by the Police or with the authorisation of the Court.

When conducting searches, staff/carers should take reasonable precautions 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 Police, parent, manager of the home or social worker as appropriate.

2. Notifications

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

Searches Conducted With Children’s Co-operation

Searches undertaken with the child’s co-operation, must be notified to the manager and the child’s Social Worker by the staff/carer at the first opportunity.

Searches Conducted Without Children’s Co-operation

Searches conducted without the child’s co-operation (where a level of force has been used) are deemed to be an Incident and must be notified to the on call manager and child’s social worker as soon as possible, but within 24 hours.

The social worker/on call manager should decide whether to inform the child’s parent(s) and if so who should do so.

If the Incident results in any serious damage or the Police are called for assistance, the on call the manager or foster carer's supervising social worker must be notified.

3. Recording

Searches Conducted With Children’s Co-operation

These searches should be recorded in the child’s Daily Record.

The details which must be included are:

  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. What was found, and whether items found were retained/confiscated;
  5. If items were retained/confiscated, where they were stored.

Searches Conducted Without Children’s Co-operation

Any search conducted without the child’s co-operation is deemed to be an Incident and must be recorded as such and subject to a Management Review.

Please see Incidents Guidance.