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The Positive Relationships Standard


  1. The positive relationships standard is that children are helped to develop, and to benefit from, relationships based on:
    1. Mutual respect and trust;
    2. An understanding about acceptable behaviour; and
    3. Positive responses to other children and adults.
  2. In particular, the standard in paragraph (1) requires the registered person to ensure:
    1. That staff:
      1. Meet each child's behavioural and emotional needs, as set out in the child's relevant plans;
      2. Help each child to develop socially aware behaviour;
      3. Encourage each child to take responsibility for the child's behaviour, in accordance with the child's age and understanding;
      4. Help each child to develop and practise skills to resolve conflicts positively and without harm to anyone;
      5. Communicate to each child expectations about the child's behaviour and ensure that the child understands those expectations in accordance with the child’s age and understanding;
      6. Help each child to understand, in a way that is appropriate according to the child's age and understanding, personal, sexual and social relationships, and how those relationships can be supportive or harmful;
      7. Help each child to develop the understanding and skills to recognise or withdraw from a damaging, exploitative or harmful relationship;
      8. Strive to gain each child's respect and trust;
      9. Understand how children's previous experiences and present emotions can be communicated through behaviour and have the competence and skills to interpret these and develop positive relationships with children;
      10. Are provided with supervision and support to enable them to understand and manage their own feelings and responses to the behaviour and emotions of children, and to help children to do the same;
      11. De-escalate confrontations with or between children, or potentially violent behaviour by children;
      12. Understand and communicate to children that bullying is unacceptable; and
      13. Have the skills to recognise incidents or indications of bullying and how to deal with them; and
    2. That each child is encouraged to build and maintain positive relationships with others.


Bullying is behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can be in many forms and this standard’s references to bullying cover bullying of any kind or description.


Restraint is defined in regulation 2 and means using force or restricting liberty of movement. Also see regulation 20 and The Protection of Children Standard of the Guide in relation to restraint.

Children's homes should work closely with the placing authority to understand the child's relationship history and the impact that the child's arrival may have on the group living in the home. Staff should understand, for each child, what the placing authority has recorded in the relevant plan as an appropriate level of contact with family and friends.

Homes should work closely with health and education professionals to ensure that outcomes identified and progress made by children in building relationships and achieving socially acceptable behaviours can be recorded and measured.

Homes should develop and maintain effective working relationships with local youth justice and police services where children in their care have targets to achieve in reducing offending or socially unacceptable behaviour.

Regulation 11(2) sets out the expectations on staff in building a positive relationship with each child and helping the child develop skills to have positive relationships with others. 'Others' includes individuals both inside and outside the home such as other children in the home, staff, family members, siblings, previous carers and friends (in accordance with their relevant plans). The care planning standard (see The Care Planning Standard) provides further detail in respect of contact with parents, relatives and friends.

Children should be supported to understand how to build friendships with other children. They should be able to spend time with their friends in the local community, in their home area, and by having friends visit them at the home, in line with the child’s plans, age and understanding.

Staff should be skilled in understanding the range of influences that friendships can have and should encourage those with a positive impact and discourage those with a negative impact. Homes that care for children who have, or are likely, to sexually offend should establish the extent to which friendships can be supported, in line with the child's relevant plans and subject to the safety of all concerned.

Decisions about overnight stays with friends should be delegated to children's homes staff by the placing authority for looked-after children. The level of delegated authority should be recorded in the placement plan. Where children wish to stay overnight with friends, staff should carry out the same kind of checks that responsible parents might make in similar circumstances to seek reassurance that the child will be well cared for and safe.

Staff should understand and help children to understand what makes a healthy, nurturing relationship. Staff should be skilled to recognise the signs and provide support to children in danger of or involved in exploitative or damaging relationships with others and where possible prevent these types of relationships.

Expectations of standards of behaviour should be high for all staff and children in the home. These standards should be clear and unambiguous. Children should be supported to develop understanding and empathy towards each other. Positive behaviour and relationships should be reinforced, praised and encouraged; poor behaviour should be challenged and discussed. The development of safe, stable and secure relationships with staff in the home should be central to the ethos of the home and support the development of secure attachments that, where appropriate, persist over time.

Where positive relationships exist between children and staff this should be respected and maintained as far as possible when making any decisions to alter staffing arrangements. The registered person should respond to children's views about changes to staff and be aware of the potential impact this may have for the child’s stability and emotional well-being.

Staff should understand factors that affect children's motivation to behave in a socially acceptable way. Staff should encourage an enthusiasm for positive behaviour through the use of positive behaviour strategies in line with the child's relevant plans.

The capacity and competence of staff to build constructive, warm relationships with children that actively promote positive behaviour, provides the foundations for managing any negative behaviour. Staff should have the skills to respond to each child's individual behaviour. Where necessary they should manage conflict, maintain constructive dialogues and react appropriately if challenged by a child in their care.

Staff supervision must enable staff to reflect and act upon how their own feelings and behaviour may be affected by the behaviour of the children they care for.

Staff should understand what they must do to prevent bullying of children by other children or adults. Staff should be able to recognise and address different types of abuse such as peer abuse, cyberbullying and bullying in day-to-day relationships in the home. Registered persons must ensure that procedures for dealing with allegations of bullying are in place and staff have the skills required to intervene, protect and address bullying behaviours effectively (see regulation 34(3) on the policy for the prevention of bullying).

Where homes are also registered as schools, the home's policies and procedures around bullying should not unnecessarily duplicate or contradict any requirements of other relevant legislation.

Secure children's homes are subject to the requirements of the positive relationship standard. However, with regard to regulation 11(2)(a), secure children's homes may consider managing certain relationships by limiting the interactions between those children.

Secure children's homes should also consider how they can support children to sustain the friendships they already have outside of the home, for example encouraging friends to remain in contact or visit if it would meet an expressed need of the child in secure care.

Children with disabilities can be disadvantaged and socially isolated from friends, especially if they attend a school which is not in their local community such as a residential special school. The registered person in a short break setting should ensure that the short break service offers the chance for children to develop friendships, by carefully matching groups and, where possible, by arranging for children to frequently stay with the same group.

Short break settings have an important role to play in extending and increasing the opportunities available to children to share, socialise with others and choose activities alongside their peers.

Last Updated: February 9, 2022