Up until recently, child protection legislation across the UK was made and passed by Westminster. Nations had their own laws (the Children Act 1989 and the Children Act 2004 for England and Wales; the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995; and the Children (Scotland) Act 1995) but the framework set out by the different acts was broadly similar.
Since 1999, the process of devolution has seen power and responsibility transferred from Westminster to regional governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
This means that each nation is now responsible for its own education, health and social welfare policies and legislation; this includes safeguarding and child protection.
Legislation covering child protection can be divided into two main categories: civil law and criminal law (these are known as statutory laws).
Civil law is divided into public and private law. Public law puts in place systems and processes in order to minimise the risk of children coming to harm and lays out what action should be taken if children are at risk. Private law deals with family proceedings such as divorce and contact.
Criminal law deals with people who have offended or are at risk of offending against children. In practice, some Acts may include provisions that relate both to civil law and criminal law.
New laws update and amend older laws, but do not usually replace them. Governments also issue new statutory guidance to explain how they expect the laws to be put into practice.
Case law - the way in which courts interpret statutory laws - can also have an effect on how children are protected from abuse.
Since the NSPCC was founded in 1884, it has played a key role in influencing and drafting legislation to protect children.
Our factsheets provide an overview of the guidance and legislation for protecting children in: