Accessibility Statement
Skip to main content
Chat icon Chat with us live

Guidance for Safe Working Practice for adults who work with children and young people

Page 4

Download the guidance sheet Link to Adobe PDF file

previous page Previous Page

Use of Control and Physical Intervention

There are circumstances in which adults working with children displaying extreme behaviours can legitimately intervene by using either non-restrictive or restrictive physical interventions. This is a complex area and adults and organisations must have regard to government guidance and legislation in the development and implementation of their own policies and practice.

The use of physical intervention should, wherever possible, be avoided. It should only be used to manage a child or young person’s behaviour if it is necessary to prevent personal injury to the child, other children or an adult, to prevent serious damage to property or in what would reasonably be regarded as exceptional circumstances. When physical intervention is used it should be undertaken in such a way that maintains the safety and dignity of all concerned

The scale and nature of any physical intervention must be proportionate to both the behaviour of the individual to be controlled and the nature of the harm they may cause. The minimum necessary force should be used and the techniques deployed in line with recommended policy and practice.

Under no circumstances should physical force or intervention be used as a form of punishment. The duty of care which applies to all adults and organisations working with children and young people requires that reasonable measures are taken to prevent children being harmed. The use of unwarranted physical force is likely to constitute a criminal offence.

In settings where restrictive physical interventions may need to be employed regularly, i.e. where adults are working with children with extreme behaviours associated with learning disability or autistic spectrum disorders, the employer should have a policy on the use of such intervention, as part of a wider behaviour management policy. Individual care plans, drawn up in consultation with parents/carers and where appropriate, the child, should set out the strategies and techniques to be used and those which should be avoided. Risk assessments should be carried out where it is foreseeable that restrictive physical intervention may be required.

In all cases where physical intervention is employed the incident and subsequent actions should be documented and reported. This should include written and signed accounts of all those involved, including the child or young person. The parents/carers should be informed the same day. This means that adults should:

  • adhere to the organisation’s physical intervention policy
  • always seek to defuse situations 
  • always use minimum force for the shortest period necessary
  • record and report as soon as possible after the event any incident where physical intervention has been used.

This means that organisations should:

  • have a policy on the use of physical intervention in place that complies with government guidance and legislation and describes the context in which it is appropriate to use physical intervention
  • ensure that an effective recording system is pace which allows for incidents to be tracked and monitored
  • ensure adults are familiar with the above
  • ensure that staff are appropriately trained

Children and Young People in Distress

There are some settings, where adults are involved in managing significant or regular occurrences of distress and emotional upset in children, for example in mental health services, residential care provision etc. In these circumstances professional guidance should be followed and adults should be aware of what is and what is not acceptable behaviour when comforting a child or diffusing a situation. This is particularly important when working on a one-to-one basis.

For all other adults working with children there will be occasions when a distressed child needs comfort and reassurance and this may involve physical contact. Young children, in particular, may need immediate physical comfort, for example after a fall, separation from parent etc. Adults should use their professional judgement to comfort or reassure a child in an age-appropriate way whilst maintaining clear professional boundaries.

Where an adult has a particular concern about the need to provide this type of care and reassurance, or is concerned that an action may be misinterpreted, this should be reported and discussed with a senior manager and parents/carers. This means the adult should:

  • consider the way in which they offer comfort and reassurance to a distressed child and do it in an age-appropriate way
  • be circumspect in offering reassurance in one to one situations, but always record such actions in these circumstances
  • follow professional guidance or code of practice where available
  • never touch a child in a way which may be considered indecent
  • record and report situations which may give rise to concern from either party
  • not assume that all children seek physical comfort if they are distressed

Intimate Care

Some job responsibilities necessitate intimate physical contact with children on a regular basis, for example assisting young children with toileting, providing intimate care for children with disabilities or in the provision of medical care. The nature, circumstances and context of such contact should comply with professional codes of practice or guidance and/or be part of a formally agreed plan, which is regularly reviewed. The additional vulnerabilities that may arise from a physical or learning disability should be taken into account and be recorded as part of an agreed care plan. The emotional responses of any child to intimate care should be carefully and sensitively observed, and where necessary, any concerns passed to senior managers and/or parents/carers.

All children have a right to safety, privacy and dignity when contact of a physical or intimate nature is required and depending on their abilities, age and maturity should be encouraged to act as independently as possible.

The views of the child should be actively sought, wherever possible, when drawing up and reviewing formal arrangements. As with all individual arrangements for intimate care needs, agreements between the child, parents/carers and the organisation must be negotiated and recorded. This means that adults should:

  • adhere to the organisation’s intimate care guidelines or code of practice
  • make other staff aware of the task being undertaken
  • explain to the child what is happening
  • consult with senior managers and parents/carers where any variation from agreed procedure/care plan is necessary
  • record the justification for any variations to the agreed procedure/care plan and share this information with parents
  • ensure that any changes to the agreed care plan are discussed, agreed and recorded.

Personal Care

Young people are entitled to respect and privacy at all times and especially when in a state of undress, changing clothes, bathing or undertaking any form of personal care. There are occasions where there will be a need for an appropriate level of supervision in order to safeguard young people and/or satisfy health and safety considerations. This supervision should be appropriate to the needs and age of the young people concerned and sensitive to the potential for embarrassment.

Adults need to be vigilant about their own behaviour, ensure they follow agreed guidelines and be mindful of the needs of the children and young people with whom they work. This means that adults should:

  • avoid any physical contact when children are in a state of undress
  • avoid any visually intrusive behaviour
  • where there are changing rooms announce their intention of entering

This means that adults should not:

  • change in the same place as children
  • shower or bathe with children
  • assist with any personal care task which a child or young person can undertake by themselves

First Aid and Administration of Medication

It is expected that adults working with children and young people should be aware of basic first aid techniques. It is not however, a contractual requirement and whilst adults may volunteer to undertake such tasks, they should be suitably trained and qualified before administering first aid and/or any agreed medication.

When administering first aid, wherever possible, adults should ensure that another adult is aware of the action being taken. Parents should always be informed when first aid has been administered.

In circumstances where children need medication regularly a health care plan should have been established to ensure the safety and protection of children and the adults who are working with them. Depending upon the age and understanding of the child, they should where appropriate, be encouraged to self administer medication or treatment including, for example any ointment, use of inhalers. This means that organisations should:

  • ensure staff understand the extent and limitations of their role in applying basic care and hygiene tasks for minor abrasions and understand where an injury requires more experienced intervention
  • ensure there are trained and named individuals to undertake first aid responsibilities
  • ensure training is regularly monitored and updated
  • always ensure that arrangements are in place to obtain parental consent for the administration of first aid or medication

This means that adults should:

  • adhere to the organisation’s policy for administering first aid or medication
  • comply with the necessary reporting requirements
  • make other adults aware of the task being undertaken
  • explain to the child what is happening.
  • always act and be seen to act in the child’s best interests
  • report and record any administration of first aid or medication
  • have regard to any health plan which is in place
  • always ensure that an appropriate health/risk assessment is undertaken prior to undertaking certain activities

One to One Situations

All organisations working with or on behalf of children and young people should consider one to one situations when drawing up their policies.

It is not realistic to state that one to one situations should never take place. It is however, appropriate to state that where there is a need, agreed with a senior manager and/or parents/carers, for an adult to be alone with a child or young person, certain procedures and explicit safeguards must be in place. This also applies to those adults who do not work as part of an agency or organisation but owe a duty of care to the child or young person because of the nature of their work.

Adults should be offered training and guidance for the use of any areas of the workplace which may place themselves or children in vulnerable situations. This would include those situations where adults work directly with children and young people in unsupervised settings and/or isolated areas within community settings or in street-based projects for example.

One to one situations have the potential to make child/young person more vulnerable to harm by those who seek to exploit their position of trust. Adults working in one to one settings with children and young people may also be more vulnerable to unjust or unfounded allegations being made against them. Both possibilities should be recognised so that when one to one situations are unavoidable, reasonable and sensible precautions are taken. Every attempt should be made to ensure the safety and security of children and young people and the adults who work with them.

There are occasions where managers will need to undertake a risk assessment in relation to the specific nature and implications of one to one work. These assessments should take into account the individual needs of the child/young person and the individual worker and any arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis.

Meetings with children and young people outside agreed working arrangements should not take place without the agreement of senior managers and parents or carers.

This means that adults should:

  • ensure that when lone working is an integral part of their role, full and appropriate risk assessments have been conducted and agreed.
  • avoid meetings with a child or young person in remote, secluded areas, 
  • always inform other colleagues and/or parents/carers about the contact(s) beforehand, assessing the need to have them present or close by
  • avoid use of 'engaged' or equivalent signs wherever possible. Such signs may create an opportunity for secrecy or the interpretation of secrecy
  • always report any situation where a child becomes distressed or angry to a senior colleague
  • carefully consider the needs and circumstances of the child/children when in one to one situations

Home Visits

There are workers for whom home visits are an integral part of their work. In these circumstances it is essential that appropriate policies and related risk assessments are in place to safeguard children and young people and the adults who work with them.

A risk assessment should include an evaluation of any known factors regarding the child/young person, parents and others living in the household. Risk factors such as hostility, child protection concerns, complaints or grievances can make adults more vulnerable to an allegation. Specific consideration should be given to visits outside of ‘office hours’ or in remote or secluded locations. Following an assessment, appropriate risk management measures should be in place before visits are agreed. Where little or no information is available, visits should not be made alone. There will be occasions where risk assessments are not possible or not available, e.g. when emergency services are used. In these circumstances, a record must always be made of the circumstances and outcome of the home visit. Such records must always be available for scrutiny.

Under no circumstances should an adult visit a child in their home outside agreed work arrangements or invite a child to their own home or that of a family member, colleague or friend. If in an emergency, such a one -off arrangement is required, the adult must have a prior discussion with a senior manager and the parents or carers and a clear justification for such arrangement is agreed and recorded. These means that adults should:

  • agree the purpose for any home visit with senior management, unless this is an acknowledged and integral part of their role e.g. social workers
  • adhere to agreed risk management strategies
  • always make detailed records including times of arrival and departure and work undertaken
  • ensure any behaviour or situation which gives rise to concern is discussed with their manager and, where appropriate action is taken

This means that employers should:

  • ensure that they have home visit and lone-working policies of which all adults are made aware. These should include arrangements for risk assessment and management
  • ensure that all visits are justified and recorded
  • ensure that adults are not exposed to unacceptable risk
  • ensure that adults have access to a mobile telephone and an emergency contact person

Transporting Children and Young People

There will be occasions when adults are expected or asked to transport children as part of their duties. Adults, who are expected to use their own vehicles for transporting children should ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy, appropriately insured and that the maximum capacity is not exceeded.

It is a legal requirement that all passengers should wear seat belts and it is the responsibility of the staff member to ensure that this requirement is met. Adults should also be aware of current legislation and adhere to the use of car seats for younger children. Where adults transport children in a vehicle which requires a specialist license/insurance e.g. PCV or LGV11- staff should ensure that they have an appropriate licence and insurance to drive such a vehicle.
It is inappropriate for adults to offer lifts to a child or young person outside their normal working duties, unless this has been brought to the attention of the line manager and has been agreed with the parents/carers.

There may be occasions where the child or young person requires transport in an emergency situation or where not to give a lift may place a child at risk. Such circumstances must always be recorded and reported to a senior manager and parents/carers. This means that all organisations:

  • Should have appropriate policies for transporting children and young people

This means that adults should:

  • ensure they are fit to drive and free from any drugs, alcohol or medicine which is likely to impair judgement and/ or ability to drive 
  • be aware that the safety and welfare of the child is their responsibility until they are safely passed over to a parent/carer
  • record details of the journey in accordance with agreed procedures
  • ensure that their behaviour is appropriate at all times 
  • ensure that there are proper arrangements in place to ensure vehicle, passenger and driver safety. This includes having proper and appropriate insurance for the type of vehicle being driven
  • ensure that any impromptu or emergency arrangements of lifts are recorded and can be justified if questioned

Trips and Outings

Adults should take particular care when supervising children and young people on trips and outings, where the setting is less formal than the usual workplace. Adults remain in a position of trust and need to ensure that their behaviour remains professional at all times and stays within clearly defined professional boundaries. .

Where activities include overnight stays, careful consideration needs to be given to sleeping arrangements. Children, young people, adults and parents should be informed of these prior to the start of the trip. In all circumstances, those organising trips and outings must pay careful attention to ensuring safe staff/child ratios and to the gender mix of staff especially on overnight stays.

Health and Safety arrangements require members of staff to keep colleagues/employers aware of their whereabouts, especially when involved in activities outside the usual workplace.

This means that adults should:

  • always have another adult present in out of workplace activities, unless otherwise agreed with a senior manager
  • undertake risk assessments in line with their organisation’s policy where applicable
  • have parental consent to the activity
  • ensure that their behaviour remains professional at all times(see section 7)
  • never share beds with a child/children or young people.
  • not share bedrooms unless it involves a dormitory situation and the arrangements have been previously discussed with senior manager, parents and children and young people.

Photography and Videos

Working with children and young people may involve the taking or recording of images. Any such work should take place with due regard to the law and the need to safeguard the privacy, dignity, safety and well being of children and young people. Informed written consent from parents or carers and agreement, where possible, from the child or young person, should always be sought before an image is taken for any purpose.

Careful consideration should be given as to how activities involving the taking of images are organised and undertaken. Care should be taken to ensure that all parties understand the implications of the image being taken especially if it is to be used for any publicity purposes or published in the media, or on the Internet. There also needs to be an agreement as to whether the images will be destroyed or retained for further use, where these will be stored and who will have access to them.

Adults need to remain sensitive to any children who appear uncomfortable, for whatever reason, and should recognise the potential for such activities to raise concerns or lead to misunderstandings.

It is not appropriate for adults to take photographs of children for their personal use.

This means that adults should:

  • be clear about the purpose of the activity and about what will happen to the images when the activity is concluded
  • be able to justify images of children in their possession
  • avoid making images in one to one situations or which show a single child with no surrounding context
  • ensure the child/young person understands why the images are being taken and has agreed to the activity and that they are appropriately dressed.
  • only use equipment provided or authorised by the organisation
  • report any concerns about any inappropriate or intrusive photographs found
  • always ensure they have parental permission to take and/or display photographs

This means that adults should not:

  • display or distribute images of children unless they have consent to do so from parents/carers
  • use images which may cause distress 
  • use mobile telephones to take images of children
  • take images ‘in secret’, or taking images in situations that may be construed as being secretive.

Access to Inappropriate Images and Internet Usage

There are no circumstances that will justify adults possessing indecent images of children. Adults who access and possess links to such websites will be viewed as a significant and potential threat to children. Accessing, making and storing indecent images of children on the internet is illegal. This will lead to criminal investigation and the individual being barred from working with children and young people, if proven.

Adults should not use equipment belonging to their organisation to access adult pornography; neither should personal equipment containing these images or links to them be brought into the workplace. This will raise serious concerns about the suitability of the adult to continue to work with children.

Adults should ensure that children and young people are not exposed to any inappropriate images or web links. Organisations and adults need to ensure that internet equipment used by children have the appropriate controls with regards to access. e.g. personal passwords should be kept confidential.

Where indecent images of children or other unsuitable material are found, the police and Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) should be immediately informed. Adults should not attempt to investigate the matter or evaluate the material themselves, as this may lead to evidence being contaminated which in itself can lead to a criminal prosecution.
This means that organisations should

  • have clear e-safety policies in place about access to and use of the internet
  • make guidance available to both adults and children and young people about appropriate usage.

This means that adults should:

  • follow their organisation’s guidance on the use of IT equipment
  • ensure that children are not exposed to unsuitable material on the internet
  • ensure that any films or material shown to children and young people are age appropriate

Whistle blowing

Whistle blowing is the mechanism by which adults can voice their concerns, made in good faith, without fear of repercussion. Each employer should have a clear and accessible whistle blowing policy that meets the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Adults who use whistleblowing procedure should be made aware that their employment rights are protected.

Adults should acknowledge their individual responsibilities to bring matters of concern to the attention of senior management and/or relevant external agencies. This is particularly important where the welfare of children may be at risk. This means that organisations should:

  • ensure they have appropriate whistle-blowing policies in place
  • ensure that they have clear procedures for dealing with allegations against staff which are in line with their Local Safeguarding Children Board’s procedures.

This means that adults should:

  • report any behaviour by colleagues that raises concern regardless of source

Sharing Concerns and Recording Incidents

See PDF version Link to Adobe PDF file  for Appendix 1 & 2 diagrams

Individuals should be aware of their organisation’s child protection procedures, including procedures for dealing with allegations against adults. All allegations must be taken seriously and properly investigated in accordance with local procedures and statutory guidance. Adults who are the subject of allegations are advised to contact their professional association.

In the event of any allegation being made, to someone other than a manager, information should be clearly and promptly recorded and reported to a senior manager without delay.

Adults should always feel able to discuss with their line manager any difficulties or problems that may affect their relationship with children and young people so that appropriate support can be provided or action can be taken.

It is essential that accurate and comprehensive records are maintained wherever concerns are raised about the conduct or actions of adults working with or on behalf of children and young people.

This means that adults:

  • should be familiar with their organisation’s system for recording concerns
  • should take responsibility for recording any incident, and passing on that information where they have concerns about any matter pertaining to the welfare of an individual in the workplace

This means that organisations: 

  • should have an effective, transparent and accessible system for recording and managing concerns raised by any individual in the workplace


  1. Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006. HM Government (WT 2006)
  2. WT 2006 Chapter 6, page 153. See also AMA document on ‘Unsuitability’ available Dec 07 from Allegation Management Advisers in Government Offices.
  3. WT 2006 page Chapter 1 page 38
  4. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Part I, Section. 2 (1) and (2)
  5. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Part I, Section.7
  6. Caring for Young People and the Vulnerable. Guidance for Preventing Abuse of Trust Home Office
  7. Sexual Offences Act 2003.Sect 16-19 re-enacts and amends offence of abuse of position of trust
  8. This includes any home or domestic settings used or frequented by the adult
  9. grooming’ – the act of gaining the trust of a child so that sexual abuse can take place.
  10. Working Together to Safeguard Children .A guide to interagency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children HM Government 2006
  11. For further information see

Top of page Top of Page

previous page Previous Page