In simple terms, the Children’s Act is a piece of legislation designed to ensure that the welfare and well-being of children is of paramount importance. The Act was initially introduced in 1989 and was then subsequently updated in 2004.
Why it’s there
There are several key points to the Children’s Act with regard to looking after children and looking into what is best for their needs:
- The Paramountcy Principle – this means that you have to think about both the best interests of the child and their particular wishes. It also stresses the need to prioritise the home and family links of the child.
- Provision of services – the act defines a child as someone who won’t be able to maintain their health or development without the help of additional services. This includes assessment of children by social workers (covered under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989) and in some cases may have to include accommodation or financial assistance (for example if a child has to be taken into care).
- Duty to investigate – under s47 of the Children’s Act 1989 you are legally required to investigate if there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being harmed or likely to be harmed.
- Police powers – under section 46 a police officer could keep a child in police protection if they suspect they could be potentially harmed.
- Definition of parental responsibility- in recent times the Children’s Act was updated to expand the definition of harm (for example, the witnessing of domestic abuse).
What changed in 2004?
The Children’s Act was updated in 2004 after the Laming enquiry. After the death of 8 year old Victoria Climbié, it was felt that much more needed to be done to safeguard children and to improve standards of childcare.
The updated act included the introduction of a Children’s Commissioner, Local Safeguarding Children Boards and updated legislation that restricts the use of physical punishment on children. While this updated legislation does not mean an outright ban on smacking children, it does make clear that there is a level of physical punishment that is acceptable and that parents must be aware of this.
Why is this relevant to me?
There are a lot of cases that deal with family matters – for example divorce proceedings. It is important for all parties to be aware that while there are practical or financial matters involved it is also vital to be aware of the needs of children.
We take these matters very seriously and believe it is important that any cases involving children need to be carefully and sensitively handled. This is why we have specialists on board in order to handle this and to make sure the needs of children can be properly looked after. If you would like to know more please contact us today.