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General duties to safeguard children

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Duties of various public bodies to safeguard children

Many public bodies are required to have due regard to making arrangements to safeguard children when delivering their work.

This includes local authorities, NHS organisations, police, police and crime commissioners and those leading the juvenile justice secure estate, probation and rehabilitation services.

Reference: Section 11 of the Children Act 2004

Where public bodies arrange for their statutory functions to be carried out by others (including charities and voluntary organisations), they must make arrangements to ensure that those bodies to whom they have delegated, do so having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Reference: Section 11(2)(b) of the Children Act 2004

The key statutory guidance for this duty is revised regularly by the secretary of state.

Reference: Working together to safeguard children statutory guidance

Duties of local authorities to promote cooperation that improves children’s wellbeing

A local authority must cooperate with relevant partners, bodies and individuals to improve the wellbeing of children in the authority’s area. In doing so, it must consider the role of parents and others who play a role in caring for children.

In this context, wellbeing refers to:

  • physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • education, training and recreation
  • their contribution to society
  • social and economic wellbeing.

Examples of relevant partners that might need to cooperate with the local authority include (but are not limited to):

  • the relevant district council for the area (if one exists)
  • the police
  • any provider of probation services
  • health bodies
  • colleges and schools (all to the extent that they fall within the area of the local authority).

Reference: Section 10 of the Children Act 2004

The key statutory guidance for public providers is revised regularly by the secretary of state.

Reference: Working together to safeguard children statutory guidance

Duty of local authorities to promote services to children

Every local authority should publish information about the services they provide to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. They may also consider it appropriate to publish information about other service providers. Local authorities should also take steps to ensure that this information is accessible to anyone who might need it.

Reference: Schedule 2, part 1, paragraph 1(2) of the Children Act 1989

Duty of local authorities to improve the wellbeing of young children

Local authorities must improve the wellbeing of, and reduce inequalities between, young children in their area.

In this context, wellbeing refers to:

  • physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • education, training and recreation
  • their contribution to society
  • social and economic wellbeing.

Reference: Section 1 of the Childcare Act 2006

Duty of local authorities to prevent ill-treatment or neglect of children

Every local authority should take reasonable steps, through the provision of services, to prevent children within their area suffering ill-treatment or neglect.

Reference: Schedule 2, part 1, paragraph 4 of the Children Act 1989

Duty on Integrated Care Boards to plan to meet the needs of children and victims of abuse

An integrated care board and its partner NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts must prepare a plan setting out how they propose to exercise their functions in the next five years.

The plan must:

  • set out any steps that the integrated care board proposes to take to address the particular needs of children and young persons under the age of 25
  • set out any steps that the integrated care board proposes to take to address the particular needs of victims of abuse (including domestic abuse and sexual abuse, whether of children or adults).

Reference: Section 14Z52 of The National Health Service Act 2006 (as amended by the Health and Care Act 2022)

Duties of the government to promote the wellbeing of children and young people

The secretary of state has a duty to promote the wellbeing of children in England.

The secretary of state must undertake a number of activities to accomplish this duty, including activities related to ‘parental care’. Parental care refers to care provided by any person to a child – not just care provided by a parent or guardian.

Reference: Section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008

Duties of the government to promote wellbeing of children and young people who are care experienced

The secretary of state can take any action they consider appropriate to promote the well-being of certain groups of young people who used to be ‘looked after’ (also known as ‘in care’) by a local authority and now receive assistance and support from the local authority.

These groups include:

  • young people who were in care for a certain period before they turned 18, or immediately before they turned 18
  • young people who are older than 16 but younger than 21, for whom a special guardianship order is (or was) in force, and who were looked after by a local authority immediately before the order came into force
  • certain young people under the age of 25, as prescribed by the secretary of state.

In this context, wellbeing refers to:

  • physical health
  • mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • social and economic wellbeing.

It also considers a child’s access to education, training and recreation, as well as their ability to contribute to society.

Reference: Section 23C to 24D of the Children Act 1989

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 15 June 2022

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