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Physical interaction with children

In this page:

Physical Interaction with Children
Children and Young People in Distress
Behaviour Management and Physical Intervention
Other activities that require physical contact
Sexual Contact

Physical Interaction with Children

There are occasions when it is entirely appropriate and proper for staff to have physical contact with children, but it is crucial that they only do so in ways appropriate to their professional role.

A 'no touch' approach is impractical for most staff and will in some circumstances be inappropriate. When physical contact is made with a child this should be in response to their needs at the time, of limited duration and appropriate to their age, stage of development, gender, ethnicity and background.  Appropriate physical contact in organisations will occur most often with younger children.


Children and Young People in Distress

There may 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.

Behaviour Management 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.
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.

Other activities that require physical contact

Some adults who work in certain settings, for example sports, drama or outdoor activities or teach specific subjects such as PE or music, will have to initiate some physical contact with children, for example to demonstrate technique in the use of a particular piece of equipment, adjust posture, or perhaps to support a child so they can perform an activity safely or prevent injury.  Such activities should be carried out in accordance with existing codes of conduct, regulations and best practice.


Sexual Contact

All adults should clearly understand the need to maintain appropriate boundaries in their contacts with children. Intimate or sexual relationships between children/young people and the adults who work with them will be regarded as a grave breach of trust.  Allowing or encouraging a relationship to develop in a way which might lead to a sexual relationship is also unacceptable.

Any sexual activity between an adult and the child or young person with whom they work may be regarded as a criminal offence and will always be a matter for disciplinary action.

There are occasions when adults embark on a course of behaviour known as 'grooming' where the sole purpose is to gain the trust of a child, and manipulate that relationship so sexual abuse can take place.  Adults should be aware that consistently conferring inappropriate special attention and favour upon a child might be construed as being part of a 'grooming' process and as such will give rise to concerns about their behaviour.