There are numerous laws and guidelines in place which aim to protect children from harm, and promote their health and wellbeing. The need for improved legislation has been highlighted by high-profile cases, such as the death of Maria Colwell in 1973 and, more recently, Victoria Climbi in 2000. These cases shocked the nation and showed weaknesses in procedures. These policies are constantly reviewed and amended so it is important to keep up to date with these changes.
The Children Act 1989
This Act identifies the responsibilities of parents and professionals who must work to ensure the safety of the child. This Act includes two important sections which focus specifically on child protection. Section 47 states that the Local Authority has a duty to investigate when there is a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. Section 17 states that services must be put into place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within the area who are in need.
The Education Act 2002
This outlines the role of Local Education Authorities (LEAs), governing bodies, head teachers and all those working in schools to ensure that children are safe and free from harm.
The Children Act 2004 This is not a replacement of the Children Act 1989. This provides the legal framework for Every Child Matters and sets out the process for providing services in a way which allows every child to achieve the five outcomes of Every Child Matters (described below). It requires local authorities to lead multi-agency childrens trusts, to develop a children and young peoples plan, and to set up a shared database containing information relevant to a childs welfare. This allows all the organisations involved in childrens welfare to access relevant information and work together to provide the best possible service.
Childcare Act 2006
This act aimed to transform early years and childcare services in England. Local authorities are required to: ¢Improve the Every Child Matters outcomes for pre-school children ¢Provide sufficient quality childcare for working parents. ¢Provide a better Parent Information Service.
Every Child Matters This was launched in 2002, at least partly in response to the death of Victoria Climbi. It is one of the most important policy initiative and development programmes in relation to children and childrens services of the last decade. It has been the title of three government papers, leading to the Children Act 2004. Every Child Matters covers children and young adults up to the age of 19. Its main aims are for every child, whatever their background or circumstances, to have the support they need to:
¢Be healthy ¢Stay safe ¢Enjoy and achieve ¢Make a positive contribution ¢Achieve economic well-being Each of these themes has a detailed framework attached whose outcomes require multi-agency partnerships working together to achieve. The agencies in partnership may include childrens centres, early years, schools, childrens social services, primary and secondary health services, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS).
In the past it has been argued that children and families have received poorer services because of the failure of professionals to understand each others roles or to work together effectively in a multi-disciplinary manner. Every Child Matters seeks to change this, stressing that all professionals working with children should be aware of the contribution that could be made by their own and each others services. Protecting children from harm can be best achieved by effective joint and partnership working between agencies.
Working Together to Safeguard Children
This provides guidance on what you should do if you have concerns about the welfare of a child. It also recommends ways of working for people who work with young people and their families. What to do if Youre Worried a Child is Being Abused (DfES 2003) This is a guide for practitioners, helping them understand how to work together to promote childrens welfare and protect them from harm. It reinforces Every Child Matters by stressing the importance of joint working. United Nations Convention in The Rights of The Child 1989
This treaty sets out the rights and freedoms of all children in a set of 54 articles. Included in those rights are those which ensure that children are safe and looked after. Article 19 states childrens rights to be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse by those looking after them. Those countries which signed up to the Treaty, including the UK in 1991, are legally bound to implement legislation which supports each of the articles.