· The Children Act 1989 TheChildren Act 1989 recognized that the identification and investigation of childabuse, together with the protection and support of victims and their families,requires multi-agency collaboration. As part of that protection, action shouldbe taken, usually by the police and social services, to prosecute knownoffenders or control their access to vulnerable children. The Sexual OffencesAct 2003 also introduced many new offences to deal with those who abuse andexploit children. Both Acts can be found at: www.opsi.gov.
uk. The 1989 Act gives responsibilities of theState and individuals to ensure the welfare of Children and young people whoare under their care. It introduces provisions that apply when children are atrisk “Significant harm” and states that the child’s welfare isparamount.
Section 47 of Children Act1989 gives power to Local Authority to investigate:(1)Where a local authority—(a) areinformed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area—(i) isthe subject of an emergency protection order; or(ii) isin police protection; (a) havereasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their areais suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the authority shallmake, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enablethem (b) todecide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’swelfare. (2)Where a local authority has obtained an emergency protection order with respectto a child, they shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as theyconsider necessary to enable them to decide what action they should take tosafeguard or promote the child’s welfare.(3)The enquiries shall be directed towards establishing—(a) whetherthe authority should—(i) makeany application to court under this Act;(ii) exerciseany of their other powers under this Act;(iii) exerciseany of their powers under section 11 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (childsafety orders). The Children Act 1989 introduced theconcept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsoryintervention in family life in the best interests of children. The breadth ofthe concept of significant harm is exercised by the police officers on thescene and would ensure what action to use and appropriately to protect thechild. The 1989 Act gives LAs a duty tomake enquiries to decide whether or not to take action in order to safeguard orpromote the welfare of a child who is suffering, or likely to suffer,significant harm. The very nature of the power means that the officer attendingthe scene determines whether the power is used.
Even where the officer isunsure and consults a sergeant or inspector, the officer’s account of the sceneis crucial in deciding what advice to give. The Child Act 1989 provides asafeguard by requiring that the use of power is investigated by a designatedofficer and protects the child and family by providing automatic review bysenior officers and release the child at the point they feel it is safe to doso.1 A court may make a care order (committingthe child to the care of the LA) or supervision order (putting the child underthe supervision of a social worker or a probation officer) in respect of achild if it is satisfied that:· the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer,significant harm; and· the harm, or likelihood of harm, isattributable to a lack of adequate parental care or control (s31). There are no absolute criteria on which torely when judging what constitutes significant harm.
Consideration of theseverity of ill-treatment may include the degree and the extent of physicalharm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, the extent ofpremeditation, and the presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism andbizarre or unusual elements. Each of these elements has been associated withmore severe effects on the child, and/or relatively greater difficulty inhelping the child overcome the adverse impact of the maltreatment. Sometimes, asingle traumatic event may constitute significant harm, e.g. a violent assault,suffocation or poisoning. More often, significant harm is a compilation ofsignificant events, both acute and long-standing, which interrupt, change ordamage the child’s physical and psychological development. Some children livein family and social circumstances where their health and development areneglected.
For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term emotional, physicalor sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent of constitutingsignificant harm. In each case, it is necessary to consider any maltreatmentalongside the family’s strengths and supports.2 Under s31(9) of the Children Act 19893 asamended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002:’harm’ means ill-treatment or the impairment of health ordevelopment, including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearingthe ill-treatment of another; ‘development’ means physical, intellectual,emotional, social or behavioural development; ‘health’ means physical or mentalhealth; and ‘ill-treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatmentwhich are not physical. Unders31(10) of the1989 Act: ‘Wherethe question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on thechild’s health and development, his health or development shall be comparedwith that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.’ Despitethe fact child abuse is laden with stigma but devoid of clear meaning, theChildren Act 1989, support the primary responsibility of parents to raise theirchildren.
The guiding principle is that the relationship between the childrenand parents should be fostered, except where this is outweighed byconsiderations of harm to the child. In cases where there may be child abuse byparents who have inadequate family backgrounds and who lack sufficientunderstanding of child development or basic child care techniques; that wherethe state need to intervene and take care of the child. Otherwise, social worksupport and education may be appropriate other than either prosecution or careproceedings.4 1.4 Child Abuse and Safeguarding ChildrenSafeguarding is the process of protectingchildren from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health anddevelopment, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent withthe provision of safe and effective care environment. 1.1 Domestic Violence and ChildAbuseDomestic violence is likely to have adamaging effect on the health and development of children and it constitutechild abuse. When a child or young person has been abused or neglected, theremay often be a range of co-existing family-based difficulties such as domestic violence,parental mental illness, substance misuse and learning disability, which poseadditional challenges for effective intervention.
The context within which the abuseor neglect takes place can aggravate or protect harm on the child. In addition, experience has shown that the wayin which professionals respond to concerns about children’s welfare has asignificant bearing on subsequent outcomes for children.5 Children living in families where they areexposed to domestic violence have been shown to be at risk of behavioural,emotional, physical, cognitive-functioning, attitude and long-termdevelopmental problems. The UK government guidance, requires that everyoneworking with women and children should be alert to the frequentinter-relationship between domestic violence and the abuse and neglect ofchildren (National Service Framework for Children, Young People and MaternityServices, 2004). 1.2 Trafficking and ModernSlavery of Children 1.3 Child Protection andChild Abuse 1.
4 Framework for theAssessment of Children in NeedThe Framework for the Assessment ofChildren in Need and their Familiesprovides a systematic basis for collectingand analysing information to support professional judgements about how to helpchildren and families in the best interests of the child. Practitioners arerequired to use the framework to gain an understanding of:61) achild’s developmental needs; 2) thecapacity of parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to those needs,including their capacity to keep the child safefrom harm; and 3) theimpact of wider family and environmental factors on the parents and child. Theframework is to be used for the assessment of all children in need, includingcases where there are concerns that a child may be suffering significant harm. The framework shouldprovide evidence to help, guide and inform judgements about children’s welfareand safety, from the first point of contact, through the processes of initialand more detailed core assessments, according to the nature and extent of thechild’s needs. The provision of appropriate services need not, and should not,wait until the end of the assessment process, but should be determinedaccording to what is required, and when, to promote the welfare and safety ofthe child.
7 1 Judith Masson et al., (p74, 2007) ProtectingPowers: Emergency Intervention for Children’s Protection, John Wiley & SonsLtd, London. 2Adcock, M. and White, R.
(1998). Significant Harm: its management and outcome.Surrey: Significant Publications3 s31(9) of the Children Act 1989 4 Jean Graham Hall and Douglas Martin ‘CrimesAgainst Children’ (1992), Barry Rose Law Publishers Ltd5Department of Health (04 Oct 2004), ‘Core Document, National Service Frameworkfor Children, Young People and Maternity Services”, London SE1 8UG. Cited in https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/199952/National_Service_Framework_for_Children_Young_People_and_Maternity_Services_-_Core_Standards.
pdf6HM Government (2006, p201), “Working Together toSafeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promotethe welfare of children”, TSO (The Stationery Office), London. 7Ibid.