Safeguarding Children

Legal framework for safeguarding children

The Children Act 1989 recognises four categories of children;

  • Those who do not require additional support from the state
  • Children in need
  • Children in need of protection
  • Children who need to be looked after

The key sections of the children Act 1989 with which all practitioners should be familiar are;


When a Court determines any question with respect to – the upbringing of a child, the administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it, the child’s welfare shall be the Court’s paramount* consideration.

Section 17 (child in need section)

“It shall be the general duty of every Local Authority to; Safeguard and promote* the welfare of children in their area who are in need and so far as it is consistent with that duty to promote the upbringing of such children by their families”

Section 17 (10) Definition of Child in Need

Child in need is defined by Section 17 (10) as one who;

  • is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development* without the provision of services by a Local Authority
  • health or development is likely to be significantly impaired*, or further impaired, without the provision of such services, or is disabled

Section 47 ( child protection section)

“Where a Local Authority has reasonable cause to suspect* that a child who lives, or is found in their area is, or is likely to, suffer significant harm*, they shall;

make or cause to be made such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide what action to take to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare’’

* The words in bold require the exercise of professional judgement, hence the imperative to work in a multiagency way.

Section 31- Threshold for Care proceedings

(1) On the application of any local authority or authorised person, the court may make an order—

(a) placing the child with respect to whom the application is made in the care of a designated local authority; or

(b) putting him under the supervision of a designated local authority

(2)  (a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and

(b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to—

(i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or

(ii) the child’s being beyond parental control.

(3) No care order or supervision order may be made with respect to a child who has reached the age of seventeen (or sixteen, in the case of a child who is married).

Children act