The Protection of Children Standard

12.

  1. The protection of children standard is that children are protected from harm and enabled to keep themselves safe;
  2. In particular, the standard in paragraph (1) requires the registered person to ensure:
    1. That staff:
      1. Assess whether each child is at risk of harm, taking into account information in the child's relevant plans, and, if necessary, make arrangements to reduce the risk of any harm to the child;
      2. Help each child to understand how to keep safe;
      3. Have the skills to identify and act upon signs that a child is at risk of harm;
      4. Manage relationships between children to prevent them from harming each other;
      5. Understand the roles and responsibilities in relation to protecting children that are assigned to them by the registered person;
      6. Take effective action whenever there is a serious concern about a child's welfare; and
      7. Are familiar with, and act in accordance with, the home’s child protection policies;
    2. That the home's day-to-day care is arranged and delivered so as to keep each child safe and to protect each child effectively from harm;
    3. That the premises used for the purposes of the home are located so that children are effectively safeguarded;
    4. That the  premises used  for the  purposes of  the home  are designed, furnished and maintained so as to protect each child from avoidable hazards to the child's health; and
    5. That the effectiveness of the home's child protection policies is monitored regularly.

'Relevant Plans'

Relevant plans are defined in the interpretation section of the Regulations (regulation 2) as: any placement plan; any care plan; any statement of special educational needs; any education, health and care plan (“EHC plan”)[1]; and where the child is a youth justice child any detention placement plan, or any other plan prepared by that child’s placing authority in relation to the remand or sentencing of that child. ‘Relevant’ thus has a meaning here that is distinct from the normal meaning of that word. If a child has any of the above plans, they will fall within the meaning of ‘relevant plans’, but a child may not have all of the plans defined as ‘relevant’ (for example, there will be children living in children’s homes who do not have an EHC plan). Similarly a child may have a plan that the Regulations define as ‘relevant’, but may have no impact on the issue the provider is considering at that point in time, and providers should not feel obliged to make a plan apply where it does not. The essential point is that a child’s plans should form the basis of their care, and providers should use their judgement as to what is relevant in each case, taking the plans listed in the definition in the Regulations as a starting point rather than a complete list or a tick-box exercise.

[1] In some cases the child’s special education needs statement (SEN) will be a relevant plan, until such time as it is reviewed (the latest date being 2018) and replaced with an EHC plan.

The duties and responsibilities of local authorities and others who deliver children’s services with regard to safeguarding children are set out clearly in the statutory guidance, Working together to safeguard children.

The specific responsibilities of the child’s social worker, acting on behalf of the placing authority, for safeguarding children and young people who are looked-after are set out in Children Act 1989: Care planning, placement and case review.

Registered persons should seek to involve the local authority and other relevant persons whenever there is a serious concern about a child’s welfare. They are also required by regulation 40 to notify placing authorities, Ofsted and other relevant persons about serious events (see Guidance on Chapter 5 of the Regulations – Policies, Records, Complaints and Notifications, Notifications of serious events).

Staff should continually and actively assess the risks to each child and the arrangements in place to protect them. Where there are safeguarding concerns for a child, their placement plan, agreed between the home and their placing authority, must include details of the steps the home will take to manage any assessed risks on a day to day basis. [10]

As children will spend significant periods of time away from the home, for example in education or training, at appointments with the YOT or for engagement in leisure activities, any assessed risks should be shared with the education provider or service the child is attending if appropriate, so that the service is clear on the action they must take if the child puts themselves at risk while using their service.

Children’s home staff should take reasonable precautions and make informed professional judgements based on the individual child’s needs and developmental-stage about when to allow a child to take a particular risk or follow a particular course of action. Staff should discuss the decision with the child’s placing authority where appropriate. If a child makes a choice that would place them or another person at significant risk of harm, staff should assist them to understand the risks and manage their risk taking behaviour to keep themselves and others safe.

[10] For looked-after children see Schedule 2, Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

The registered person should build a strong safeguarding culture in the home where children are listened to, respected and involved in both the development of the home and decisions about the home.

Children must feel safe and be safe. Staff should support children to be aware of and manage their own safety both inside and outside the home to the extent that any good parent would.  Staff should help children to understand how to protect themselves, feel protected and be protected from significant harm.

Staff skills for safeguarding should include being able to identify signs that children may be at risk, and support children in strategies to manage and reduce any risks. Staff should encourage children to express their views about whether they feel safe both within and outside the home. Staff should support children to understand how to ask for help to stay safe and that the home is an environment which supports this.

All staff should strive to build positive relationships with children in the home and develop a culture of openness and trust that encourages them to be able to tell someone if they have concerns or worries about their safety. Staff should make available in the home, information in an appropriate form which enables children to contact their placing authority to call for a review of their care plan if they have concerns about their safety or welfare. Homes should encourage children to understand they can speak to an independent advocate, Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs), Ofsted inspectors or other relevant persons if they have concerns about their safety.

Staff need the knowledge and skills to recognise and be alert for any signs that might indicate a child is in any way at risk of harm. The registered person should ensure that skills in safeguarding are gained, refreshed and recorded in the homes workforce plan.

Children should be encouraged to develop positive relationships with others both in and outside the home as set out in the positive relationships standard. However, staff should be alert to the possibility that children may be at risk from such relationships including with other children in the home, staff, family members, friends and others outside the home, and they therefore should take appropriate steps to protect a child where there are concerns for a child’s safety.

Supervision of staff practice should ensure that individual adults in the home are engaged in the safeguarding culture of the home so they understand what they would need to do if they found other staff misusing or abusing their position to the detriment of the safety of a child.

As part of the policies for protection of children, the registered person should include information about whistle blowing, with clear procedures for how a staff member should report to an appropriate authority any concern they have about a child within the home being either at risk of, or already experiencing significant harm. The policy should reflect the principles set out in the Francis review 'Freedom to speak up'.

Children should be supported by staff to understand what abuse is. They should be given information about how to report abuse or any concerns about possible abuse. They should be able to access in private, relevant websites or help lines such as Childline [11] to seek advice and help.

Children must be listened to and enabled to report any allegations at the earliest opportunity. Staff should report any allegation of abuse immediately to a senior manager within the home.  Any allegation of harm or abuse must be addressed in line with the home’s child protection policy.

Each local authority should have clear arrangements in place for the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. The relevant officer or teams within the local authority should be informed promptly of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police. For further information, including about the role of a local authority designated officer see Working together to safeguard children.

[11] 0800 1111: Childline website

In addition to the requirements of this standard, the registered person has specific responsibilities under regulation 34 to prepare and implement policies setting out: arrangements for the safeguarding of children from abuse or neglect; clear procedures  for referring child protection concerns to the placing authority or local authority where the home is situated if appropriate; and specific procedures to prevent children going missing and take action if they do. The policy on protection of children from abuse and neglect should include arrangements in relation to dealing with allegations involving staff in the home, e-safety and to counter risks of self-harm and suicide. All policies should be reviewed regularly and revised where appropriate.

In addition to the requirements of this standard, the registered person has specific responsibilities under regulation 34 to prepare and implement policies setting out: arrangements for the safeguarding of children from abuse or neglect; clear procedures  for referring child protection concerns to the placing authority or local authority where the home is situated if appropriate; and specific procedures to prevent children going missing and take action if they do. The policy on protection of children from abuse and neglect should include arrangements in relation to dealing with allegations involving staff in the home, e-safety and to counter risks of self-harm and suicide. All policies should be reviewed regularly and revised where appropriate.

The policy for the protection of children from abuse of neglect should be available and explained to children and their families as well as to all staff, whatever their role. The registered person must make sure that all staff are familiar with this policy and act in accordance with it, in particular how to use it to report a concern.

The home’s policies and procedures around the protection of children should reflect any requirements of other relevant legislation.

Local authorities should have in place Runaway and Missing From Home and Care (RMFHC) protocols agreed with local police and other partners. Where appropriate, they should also have agreed protocols with neighbouring authorities. The protocols should be agreed and reviewed regularly with all agencies and be scrutinised by the Local Safeguarding Children's Board (LSCB).

Where there is a possibility that a child will run away or go missing from a children's home placement, their placement plan should include a strategy to minimise this risk. If the child is looked-after, their care plan (arranged by their placing authority) should include such a strategy.

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care sets out the steps local authorities and their partners should take to prevent children from going missing and to protect them when they do go missing. Children's homes should have regard to the relevant aspects of this guidance.

Guidance on the management, recording and investigation of missing persons is also available from the police. See College of Policing website:

  • Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons 2013;
  • Guidance on the Management Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons 2010 2nd Ed.

If there is a risk that a child may run away or go missing, staff should do their best to help them understand the risks and dangers involved and make them aware of how to seek help if they do run away.

The registered person must specify the procedures to be followed and the roles and responsibilities of staff when a child is missing from care or away from the home without permission and how staff should support the child on return to the home.

The home's procedures must take into account the views of appropriate local services and have regard to police and local authority protocols for responding to missing person's incidents in the area where the home is located.

When a child returns to the home after being missing from care or away from the home without permission, the responsible local authority must provide an opportunity for the child to have an independent return home interview. Homes should take account of information provided by such interviews when assessing risks and putting arrangements in place to protect each child.

Records must be kept detailing all individual incidents when children go missing from the home (regulation 36 (schedule 3(14)). This information should be shared with the placing authority and, where appropriate, with the child's parents. Evaluation of missing incidents should be undertaken to identify any gaps in training, skills or knowledge for staff or to record and retain evidence of what worked well. This evaluation should inform the review of the quality of care. See Guidance on Part 6 of the Regulations - Monitoring and Reviewing Children's Homes, Review of quality of care.

Where a child runs away persistently or engages in other risky behaviours, such as frequently being absent from the home to meet with inappropriate adults, the registered person, in consultation with the child’s placing authority, should convene a risk management meeting to develop a strategy for managing risks to the young person. The strategy should be agreed with the child’s placing authority, the local authority where the home is located and the local police.

Regulation 35 requires each home to prepare and implement a behaviour management policy. This policy should describe the home’s approach to promoting positive behaviour and the measures of control, discipline, and restraint which may be used in the home. These measures should be set in the context of building positive relationships with children.

The behaviour management strategy should be understood and applied at all times by staff, and must be kept under review and revised where appropriate.

The policy should address general principles for behaviour management in children’s homes which include: treating each child with understanding, dignity, kindness and respect; building, protecting and preserving positive relationships between each child and the adults caring for them; understanding each child’s behaviour to allow their needs, aspirations, experiences and strengths to be recognised and their quality of life to be enhanced; involving children and relevant others wherever practical in behaviour management; supporting each child to balance safety from injury (harm) with making appropriate choices; making sure the child’s rights are upheld.

The registered person should ensure that all incidents of control, discipline and restraint are subject to systems of regular scrutiny to ensure that their use is fair and the above principles as set out in Control, discipline, and restraint, and behaviour management are respected.

The behaviour management policy should set out how staff are trained and supported to meet the child’s needs. Regulations 13(2)(d) and (e) require children’s homes to employ a sufficient number of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced persons in the home.

Regulation 19(2) details sanctions that are prohibited in behaviour management. Any sanctions used to address poor behaviour should be restorative in nature, to help children recognise the impact of their behaviour on themselves, other children, the staff caring for them and the wider community. In some cases it will be important for children to make reparation in some form to anyone hurt by their behaviour and the staff in the home should be skilled to support the child to understand this and carry it out.

Equally, staff should understand the system for rewarding and celebrating positive behaviour and recognising where children have managed situations well.

Restraint is defined in regulation 2(1). Restraint includes physical restraint techniques that involve using force.

Restraint also includes restricting a child’s liberty of movement. This includes, for example, changes to the physical environment of the home (such as using high door handles) and removal of physical aids (such as turning off a child’s electric wheelchair). Restrictions such as these, and all other restrictions of liberty of movement, should be recorded as restraint [12]. Some children, perhaps due to impairment or disability, may not offer any resistance, but such measures should still constitute a restraint.

[12] See Records for information about exemptions to recording restraint.

In some cases, such as in residential special schools that are also registered children’s homes or children’s homes caring for children with complex care needs, restraint may be necessary as a consequence of a child’s impairment or disability. A child’s EHC plan or statement of special educational needs may contain detail about planned and agreed approaches to restraint or restraint techniques to be applied in the day-to-day routine of the child. This could include, for example the use of a device, such as outlined below.

Homes that care for children where, as a result of their impairment or disability, restraint is a necessary component of their care should include information relating to this in the behaviour management policy and Statement of Purpose.

In some extreme cases where children have very complex care needs, a child may need to be restrained by mechanical or chemical means. Any use of such restraint should follow a rigorous assessment process and, as with any restraint, be necessary and proportionate. Wherever such restraint is planned, it should be identified within a broad ranging, robust behaviour support plan which aims to bring about the circumstances where continued use of such restraint will no longer be required.

For example, mechanical restraint may be needed to limit self-injurious behaviour of extremely high frequency and intensity, such as for the small numbers of children who have severe cognitive impairments, where measures such as arm splints or cushioned helmets may be required to safeguard children from the hazardous consequences of their behaviour. Such devices should be put in place by persons with relevant qualifications, skills and experience (regulation 32(3)(b)).

Likewise, chemical restraint (being medication not prescribed for the treatment of a formally identified physical or mental illness, but instead being prescribed for use “as needed” or “PRN - pro re nata”) should only ever be delivered in accordance with acknowledged, evidence-based best practice. Homes should employ staff who have the relevant qualifications, skills and experience (regulation 32(3)(b)) to administer this type of restraint in line with NICE guidelines on Managing medicines in care homes and CQC and Ofsted joint guidance on registration of healthcare at children's homes.

Regulation 20 sets out the only purposes for which restraint can be used:

  • Preventing injury to any person (including the child who is being restrained);
  • Preventing serious damage to the property of any person (including the child who is being restrained); or
  • Preventing a child who is accommodated in a secure children's home from absconding from the home.

Injury could include physical injury or harm or psychological injury or harm.

When restraint involves the use of force, the force used must not be more than is necessary and should be applied in a way that is proportionate i.e. the minimum amount of force necessary to avert injury or serious damage to property for the shortest possible time.

Restraint that deliberately inflicts pain cannot be proportionate and should never be used on children in children’s homes.

There may be circumstances where a child can be prevented from leaving a home for example a child who is putting themselves at risk of injury by leaving the home to carry out gang related activities, use drugs or to meet someone who is sexually exploiting them or intends to do so. Any such measure of restraint must be proportionate and in place for no longer than is necessary to manage the immediate risk.

In a restraint situation, staff should use their professional judgement, supported by their knowledge of each child’s risk assessment, an understanding of the needs of the child (as set out in their relevant plans) and an understanding of the risks the child faces. Professional judgements may need to be taken quickly, and staff training and supervision of practice should support this.

Approaches to restraint should recognise that children are continuing to develop, both physically and emotionally. Any use of restraint should be suitable for the needs of the individual child. The context in which restraint is used should also recognise that, as a result of past experiences, children will have a unique understanding of their circumstances which will affect their response to restraint by adults responsible for their care.

Any use of restraint carries risks. These include causing physical injury, psychological trauma or emotional disturbance. When considering whether restraint is warranted, staff in children’s homes need to take into account:

  • The age and understanding of the child;
  • The size of the child;
  • The relevance of any disability, health problem or medication to the behaviour in question and the action that might be taken as a result;
  • The relative risks of not intervening;
  • The child’s previously sought views on strategies that they considered might de- escalate or calm a situation, if appropriate;
  • The method of restraint which would be appropriate in the specific circumstances; and
  • The impact of the restraint on the carer’s future relationship with the child.

Staff need to demonstrate that they fully understand the risks associated with any restraint technique used in the home. Techniques used for restraint that may interfere with breathing and holds by the neck that may result in injury to the spine are not permissible in any circumstances.

The registered person is responsible for ensuring that all their staff have been adequately trained in the principles of restraint and any restraint techniques appropriate to the needs of the children the home is set up to care for as defined in the home’s Statement of Purpose.

Those commissioning training in restraint for children’s homes staff should be satisfied that the training fits with their approach to restraint or existing restraint system, and is appropriate to the needs of the children the home is set up to care for. They should see evidence that any restraint techniques the training advocates for have been medically assessed to demonstrate their safety for use in a context of caring for children who are still developing, physically and emotionally. The registered person should routinely review the effectiveness of any restraint system commissioned. In particular, they should check the medical assessment of the system remains up to date.

Records of restraint must be kept and should enable the registered person and staff to review the use of control, discipline and restraint to identify effective practice and respond promptly where any issues or trends of concern emerge. The review should provide the opportunity for amending practice to ensure it meets the needs of each child.

Any child who has been restrained should be given the opportunity express their feelings about their experience of the restraint as soon as is practicable, ideally within 24 hours of the restraint incident, taking the age of the child and the circumstances of the restraint into account. In some cases children may need longer to work through their feelings, so a record that the child has talked about their feelings should be made no longer than 5 days after the incident of restraint (regulation 35(3)(c)). Children should be encouraged to add their views and comments to the record of restraint. Children should be offered the opportunity to access an advocacy support to help them with this (regulation 7(2)(b)(iii)).

Where a child has an EHC plan or statement of special educational needs in which a specific type of restraint is provided for use as part of the child’s day to day routine, the home is exempted from the recording requirement in regulation 35(4). Where these plans provide for a specific type of restraint that is not for day-to-day use, on the occasions when such restraint is used it must still be recorded in accordance with regulation 35(3). Any other restraint used must always be recorded as a restraint. In any case where restraint is used, it must comply with the requirements of regulation 20. As the EHC plan is designed to be a long term plan, any specified restraints should be kept under review to ensure relevancy.

The locking of external doors, or doors to hazardous materials, may be acceptable as a security precaution if applied within the normal routine of the home.

A deprivation of liberty may occur where a child is both under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave the home.  A children’s home cannot routinely deprive a child of their liberty without a court order, such as a section 25 order to place a child in a licensed secure children’s home, or, in the case of young people aged over 16 who lack mental capacity, a deprivation of liberty may be authorised by the Court of Protection following an application under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Children living in secure children’s homes will not typically spend time away from the home for education/training as set out in Managing risk. In circumstances where the child leaves the home with staff for a specific event such as attending court or to prepare for their release from secure care, staff should have the skills to protect the child and manage any risk of the child attempting to run away. This should be carried out in line with the child’s relevant risk assessments.

Children in secure children’s homes should only be placed in single separation when necessary to prevent injury to any person (including for example, the child who is being restrained) or to prevent serious damage to the property of any person (including the child who is being restrained). A record should be made and kept of all uses of single separation in secure children’s homes (regulation 17 of The Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991). Children should be offered the opportunity to read and add a comment to the record of their separation.

Any transportation arrangements made by the secure children’s home should be appropriate for the secure transportation of vulnerable children.

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

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