Safeguarding of Children (Child Protection) Level 2 (VTQ)

43 videos, 1 hour and 47 minutes

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Children's Acts 1989 and 2004

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The Influence of the Children Act 1989 and 2004 on Child Protection in the United Kingdom

The Children Act of 1989 and its subsequent amendment in 2004 fundamentally transformed child welfare and safeguarding in the UK. They introduced pivotal principles such as 'significant harm,' parental responsibility, and inter-agency cooperation, which are now integral to child protection.

Transformative Shifts Introduced by the Children Act 1989

The Children Act 1989 marked a fundamental change in the legal approach to child protection, prioritising the child's welfare in all decisions regarding their upbringing. It introduced several key concepts:

1. Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility is the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority a parent has for a child. This encompasses providing a home, safeguarding and maintaining the child, and administering discipline. Crucially, the Act states that parental responsibility should be executed in the best interests of the child.

2. Significant Harm

'Significant harm' is a threshold concept introduced in the Act that must be met for compulsory intervention in family life. 'Harm' is defined as ill-treatment or impairment of health and development, with the definition of 'significant' left to the courts to interpret in individual cases.

3. The No Order Principle

The Act prescribes minimal legal intervention in families, suggesting that courts should not make an order unless it would be better for the child than making no order at all.

Strengthening Child Protection: The Children Act 2004

The Children Act 2004 was enacted to reinforce the 1989 Act, largely in response to the tragic death of Victoria Climbié, which exposed severe flaws in the system. The 2004 Act highlighted the necessity for effective inter-agency cooperation and the assurance of children's safety.

1. The Duty to Cooperate

The 2004 Act emphasises the obligation of different agencies - such as the police, local authorities, and health services - to cooperate in the interest of vulnerable children. It underlines the importance of information sharing and joint decision-making.

2. Children's Commissioner

The Act established the role of the Children's Commissioner for England, an independent advocate for children's rights and interests.

3. Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)

The Act mandated the formation of LSCBs, responsible for local child protection policy, procedure, and coordination.


Both the Children Act 1989 and 2004 are instrumental in shaping child protection in the UK. They shifted the focus to prioritise children's welfare and safety above all else, and highlighted the shared responsibility of families, the community, and various agencies in ensuring children's well-being.