What is a child?

Girl on stepping stones

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a child is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, they are legally an adult.

In most situations in Scotland, a child is defined as someone who is under 18. But in some contexts, for example in some parts of the child protection system, a child is defined as a person under 16 years of age.

There are also different laws across the UK that specify age limits for young people in different circumstances. These include leaving school; leaving care; the age of consent; and the age of criminal responsibility.

Read more about legal definitions

What the law says about children working

Information on children, employment and the law, including legislation, school-leavers, babysitting, work experience placements and apprenticeships.
Find out what the law says

Bedroom sharing and moving out

Information and guidance on children sharing bedrooms and legislation on what age a child can leave home.
Find out more

Gillick competency and Fraser guidelines

The meaning of 'Gillick competent' and 'Fraser guidelines' when deciding whether a child is mature enough to make decisions.
Read about the terms

Child protection in the UK

How the systems and laws of the UK and its 4 nations work to keep children safe from abuse and harm.
More about the child protection system

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Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

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