The Children Acts address such issues as:
- The upholding of the fundamental rights of children (particularly the right to live free from abuse and neglect)
- The responsibilities of agencies in protecting and promoting the wellbeing of children and young people
- The essential principles of safeguarding and promoting welfare
Of particular importance are:
- 1989 Children Act – this forms the basis of all current child protection legislation
- 2004 Children Act – amends the 1989 act in the light of the recommendations of Lord Laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbié
- 2014 Children and Families Act – addresses adoption processes and also introduced a single assessment and Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans for children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities
- 2017 Children and Social Work Act – introduces significant changes to safeguarding and social work practice, replacing Local Safeguarding Children Boards with new multiagency partnerships, changing processes for Serious Case Reviews and other learning reviews and making changes to relationships, sex and PSHE in schools and introducing changes for care leavers and children in the care of the local authority
Background checking of staff and volunteers
- The Protection of Children Act 1999 – Introduced a responsibility for the Secretary of State to maintain a list of people considered to be unsuitable to work with children and young people. This Act led to the establishment of the CRB checking system.
- The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 – Established the Independent Barring Board to manage the list of people barred from working with children and the list of people barred from working with adults. It also clearly defined regulated activity in relation to both children and vulnerable adults.
- The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 – addresses the balance between the need to gather and retain information for the purpose of the rule of law and the protection of vulnerable people on one side of the equation with the need to protect the privacy of individuals on the other side of the equation. It paired back the scale of DBS checking.
- The Childcare Disqualification Regulations 2009 – apply to providers of childcare to early years (0-5 years) and later years (children under 8) and require the employee to disclose if a member of their immediate household is on the barred list or has committed certain offences and that the employing organisation has the responsibility to enquire whether this is the case (NB – these regulations must be applied with care as they only apply to a narrow group of people; see national guidance that can be found here or seek advice.).
Education Acts deal with the responsibility of educational institutions to safeguard children and young people and also with issues affecting outcomes for children. While Education acts may not be directly relevant to our work as churches (unless the church is providing childcare to the community such as a day nursery), they do provide an indication as to expectations of universal services that have an important role in safeguarding children but are not part of the Child Protection provision of the Local Authority.
Sexual offences Act
This act defines sexual offences against children and provides protection for those children. It addresses the abuse of a position of trust. The text of the act can be found here.
Prevent is part of the counter-terrorism strategy, working alongside the other elements of the strategy to prevent individuals from being drawn into violent extremism. Although much of the focus in the media is on Islamic radicalisation, the strategy is rightly much broader than this and covers any form of violent extremism, whether religious (including atheism), ideological, ethnic, nationalistic etc. The strategy works to prevent any and all forms of violent extremism and to promote “Fundamental British Values” which in this context are:
- The rule of law
- Individual liberty
- Mutual respect
- Tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
The Prevent Duty requires those in “specified authorities” in the exercise of their functions to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. While churches are not specified authorities, there is nothing to prevent a church from making its concerns known to the Local Authority if they have concerns about radicalisation and we would argue that there is a moral duty on us to do so.
FGM Duty (Female Genital Mutilation; sometimes referred to as female circumcision)
As with the Prevent Duty, churches do not fall within the scope of the FGM Duty, however this does not prevent churches from raising concerns and there is a general expectation that we would do so. The duty requires those working in Health, Social Care and Educational settings to report where a girl under 18 years of age discloses that she has been a victim of FGM or where the worker observes physical signs that may indicate this to be the case. The duty does not extend beyond the 18th birthday (even if the procedure was carried out before the victim turned 18) and does not apply in relation to risk or suspected cases. That said, the expectation is that churches would report relevant information and that risk would be reported, not under the FGM Duty, but under the requirement to prevent significant harm.
Human Rights and the United Nations
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities