The department's social services inspectorate is to review management and care arrangements at the Aycliffe Centre at Newton Aycliffe, near Darlington, Co Durham - whose residents include children convicted of murder, rape and arson.
The investigation was announced on the eve of the screening of a World in Action programme on ITV in which former residents tell how arm-lock techniques accidentally caused broken wrists and arms. The centre, reputedly Britain's toughest children's home, houses about 120 children aged 8 to 18 and has a special secure unit.
One boy tells how his wrist was broken accidentally by a care worker. The programme also details claims of illegal sexual intercourse, solvent abuse, self-mutilation and criminal activity.
Herbert Laming, chief inspector of the social services inspectorate, said: 'We are aware of claims of tough physical restraints and injuries at Aycliffe. Whilst recognising that the young people in Aycliffe are difficult to manage, we take seriously any allegations of abuse and injury.'