The legal and policy contexts

The Children Act 1989

The central piece of legislation guiding CSC is the 1989 Children Act. The key element of it for this guide is its focus on a ‘Child in need’ and a ‘Child in need of protection’.

Section 17 of the Act places a general duty on all local authorities to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need.’ Basically, a ‘child in need’ is a child who needs additional support from the local authority to meet their potential.

Section 47 of the Act requires the local authority to investigate the child’s circumstances where they have ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child … is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,’ and to ‘take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.’ Local authorities have a duty to provide a level and range of services to safeguard children and promote their welfare. Consequently, a local authority has to investigate any concerns or allegations that suggest a child is likely to suffer physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect, and to take action to prevent this.

Local authorities also have some responsibilities to young people over 18 years – for example, those with disabilities and those who have been ‘lookedafter’. Services offered as part of CSC may therefore include:

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Working together to safeguard children 2010

The way that agencies and organisations should work together to carry out their duties and responsibilities under the 1989 Children Act and other legislation is set out in a document called Working together to safeguard children. It sets out the responsibilities of all agencies in the protection of children, and is aimed at staff in organisations that are responsible for commissioning or providing services to:

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Human Rights Act 1998

All health and social care needs to be conducted in a way that is mindful of the Human Rights Act

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Available downloads:

  • Introduction to...children's social care