The Children Act 2004 made amendments to the Children Act 1989, largely in response to the Victoria Climbie inquiry. The Act sought to emphasize the importance of inter-agency work and cooperation in meeting the needs of children and to ensure that children’s views are ascertained and represented, improve outcomes for all children, as well of those defined as “in need” under the Children Act 1989, by focusing services more effectively around the needs of children, young people and families.
Summary of main provisions
The main provisions of the Act that remain in place are summarised below:
The establishment of a Children’s Commissioner. The Commissioner’s role is to promote awareness of the views and interests of children and to report annually to Parliament, through the Secretary of State, on his/her findings. Supporting better integrated planning, commissioning, and delivery of children’s services and providing for clear accountability. Placing a duty on local authorities to make arrangements through which key agencies co-operate to improve the well-being of children and young people and the widening of services’ powers to pool budgets in support of this.
To ensure that, within this partnership working, safeguarding children continues to be given priority the Act places a responsibility for key agencies to have regard to the need to safeguard children and promote their welfare in exercising their normal functions.
The establishment of statutory Local Safeguarding Children Boards to replace the non-statutory Area Child Protection Committees. Supporting professionals in working together and sharing information to identify difficulties and provide appropriate services. The establishment in local authorities of a Director of children’s services to be accountable the local authority’s education and social services functions in so far as they relate to children.
There is also a requirement for a lead council member for children's services to mirror the director’s responsibilities at a local political level.
The creation of an integrated inspection framework:
- Strengthening of the existing notification arrangements for private fostering
- Simplification of the registration of child minders and providers of day care
- Creation of a new duty for local authorities to promote the educational achievement of looked after children
- A requirement to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings before determining what (if any) services to provide under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 for a particular child in need and to give due consideration to them (section 53);
- Restricting the grounds on which the battery of a child may be justified as reasonable punishment
Main implications of the Act for child protection work
The main implications for child protection work are the requirement for inter-agency cooperation and coordination in safeguarding children The importance of seeking the views of children and young people and ensuring these are recorded and reflected throughout the child protection process. Child protection work and the local procedures for this are now under the governance of the LCSB (see Section 3.2.2 Governance to deliver safeguarding).