Safeguarding children policy

How the law protects children

4.1. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

This is an international agreement setting out the minimum standards for protecting children’s rights. The Convention refers to all children up to the age of 18 years. In relation to safeguarding children, it states that:

  • the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when action is taken concerning them;
  • children are to be protected from all forms of discrimination;
  • every child has the inherent right to life, survival and development;
  • children should not be punished cruelly or in a way that belittles them;
  • children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect, and be given proper care by those looking after them;  children who are victims of abuse are entitled to the care and treatment needed to recover from the effects of their mistreatment.

4.2. The Children Act 1989

This brought together legislation on caring for and protecting children and provides the framework for safeguarding children and promoting their welfare. The Children Act 1989 is underpinned by the following principles:

  • Welfare principle – the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration in any decision that affects them
  • Parental responsibility – replaces parental rights. Parents share parental responsibility with the local authority for a child in care
  • Partnership – professionals and families must work together for the welfare of children
  • The child’s voice – a child’s wishes and feelings should be sought and taken into account in making decisions affecting them (if they are old enough to understand)
  • Family is best – a child’s own family is the best place for a child to be brought up
  • No order principle – a court order should not be made unless it is needed to improve the child’s life
  • Diversity issues – racial, cultural, religious and linguistic background must be taken into account in all decisions.

The main safeguarding provisions of the Act are:

  • Child protection (s47) – a local authority shall make inquiries where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person living in the area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.
  • Children in need (s17) – a local authority has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within the area who are in need – unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development, or whose health or development is likely to be significantly or further impaired without the provision of services – and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families.
  • Inter-agency working – health, education and other public sector agencies are required to assist children’s social care in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children
  • Court orders – a court can order a child to be taken into care or to be under a supervision order. It can also order that a child is given emergency protection or undergoes an assessment

4.3. The Children Act 2004

The Act imposes a duty on all organisations that have contact with children to ensure they make sufficient arrangements to protect them.

Statutory agencies are required to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The Act requires every local authority to establish a Safeguarding Children Board to oversee all work to safeguard children. This duty is undertaken by Hertfordshire County Council.

The Children Act 2004 places responsibilities upon Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, as a relevant partner to Hertfordshire County Council’s Children’s Services, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The Act requires that children have a right to be safe and should be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect. The Act requires that Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and promotes early intervention. The Act promotes the principle that children and families are best supported and protected when there is a coordinated response from all relevant agencies.

In line with the Children Act 2004 Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council must (in section 10) co-operate to improve wellbeing and (in section 11) have arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

To meet the requirements of section 11 of the Children Act 2004, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council should have regard to statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (HM Government 2015). The Council has accepted its duty to co-operate with Hertfordshire County Council’s Children’s Services and it will ensure that it meets the requirements set out by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.