1.6 Statutory Framework (Appendix B – Working Together 2018)

This policy is currently under review following the publication of Working Together 2023.

The legislation relevant to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is set out below.

Children Act 1989

The Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to promote and safeguard the welfare of children in need in their area.

Provision of services for children in need, their families and others

Section 17(1) states that it shall be the general duty of every local authority:

  • to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  • so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families.

by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

Section 17(10) states that a child shall be taken to be in need if:

  • the child is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority under Part III of the Children Act 1989;
  • the child’s health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of such services; or
  • the child is disabled.

Under section 17, local authorities have responsibility for determining what services should be provided to a child in need. This does not necessarily require local authorities themselves to be the provider of such services.

Section 17(5) enables the local authority to make arrangements with others to provide services on their behalf and states that every local authority:

  • shall facilitate the provision by others (including in particular voluntary organisations) of services which it is a function of the authority to provide
  • may make such arrangements as they see fit for any person to act on their behalf in the provision of any such service.

Child Protection

Section 47(1) states that:

Where a local authority:

  • are informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area (i) is the subject of an emergency protection order, or (ii) is in police protection; or
  • have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm:

the authority must make, or cause to be made, such enquires as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

Both section 17 and section 47 of the Children Act 1989, require in each case that in order to help it to determine what services to provide or what action to take, the local authority must, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare:

  • ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of those services or the action to be taken; and
  • give due consideration (with regard to the child’s age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain.

Immediate Protection

Under section 46 of the Children Act 1989, where a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, the officer may:

  • remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him there; or
  • take reasonable steps to ensure that the child’s removal from any hospital, or other place in which the child is then being accommodated is prevented.

No child may be kept in police protection for more than 72 hours.

The court may make an emergency protection order with respect to a child under section 44 of the Children Act 1989, if it is satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm if the child:

  • is not removed to different accommodation (provided by or on behalf of the applicant); or
  • does not remain in the place in which the child is then being accommodated.

Emergency action addresses only the immediate circumstances of the child/ren. It should be followed quickly by a s47 enquiry and an assessment of the needs and circumstances of the child and family as necessary. Where an EPO applies, local authority children’s social care will have to consider quickly whether to initiate care or other proceedings or to let the order lapse and the child/ren return home.

Co-operation between authorities

Section 27 imposes a duty on other local authorities, local authority housing services and health bodies to cooperate with a local authority in the exercise of that authority’s duties under Part 3 of the Act which relate to local authority support for children and families.

Where it appears to a local authority that any authority or body mentioned in section 27(3) could, by taking any specified action, help in the exercise of any of their functions under Part 3 of the Act, they may request the help of that other authority or body, specifying the action in question.

An authority or body whose help is so requested must comply with the request if it is compatible with their own statutory or other duties and obligations and does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions. The authorities are:

  • any local authority;
  • any local housing authority;
  • NHS England;
  • any clinical commissioning group, Special Health Authority National Health Service Trust or NHS Foundation Trust; and
  • any person authorised by the Secretary of State for the purpose of section 27.

Where a local authority is conducting enquiries under section 47, Section 47(9) places a duty on other local authorities, local authority housing services and health bodies to assist them with these enquiries (in particular by providing relevant information and advice) if called upon by the local authority to do so.

Children Act 2004

Section 11 places duties on a range of organisations, agencies and individuals to ensure their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Section 11 places a duty on:

  • Local authorities and district councils that provide children’s and other types of services, including children’s and adult social care services, public health, housing, sport, culture and leisure services, licensing authorities and youth services;
  • NHS organisations and agencies and the independent sector, including NHS England and clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and General Practitioners;
  • The police, including police and crime commissioners and the chief officer of each police force in England and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London;
  • The British Transport Police;
  • The National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies[37];
  • Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions (YOIs);
  • Directors of Secure Training Centres (STCs);
  • Principals of Secure Colleges;
  • Youth Justice Service (YJS).

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

“Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.”

In addition to Section 11 and Working Together 2018 duties, further safeguarding duties are also place on individual organisations and agencies through other statues.

These are referenced in Working Together 2018 Chapter 2 Sections 11 – 64 and include the following organisations:

  • Schools, Colleges and other providers
  • Early Years and childcare
  • Health
  • Police
  • Adult Social Care Services
  • Housing Services
  • British Transport Police
  • Prison Service
  • Probation Service
  • Children’s homes
  • Secure Establishments
  • Youth Justice Services
  • UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement, and the Border Force
  • Armed Services
  • Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements
  • Voluntary, Charity, Social Enterprise, Faith-based Organisations and Private Sectors
  • Sports Clubs and Organisations