Child protection in Wales Legislation, policy and guidance
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 came into force in April 2016. The Act provides the legal framework for social service provision in Wales. Child protection concerns that end up in the courts continue to be treated in the same way as England.
At the local level regional safeguarding children boards co-ordinate, and ensure the effectiveness of, work to protect and promote the welfare of children. Each board includes any: local authority, chief officer of police, Local Health Board, NHS trust and provider of probation services that falls within the safeguarding board area. The boards are responsible for local child protection policy, procedure and guidance.
Law Wales: helping you understand Welsh law
Find out more information about constitutional arrangements and law made in Wales.
Much of the Children Act 1989 applies to both England and Wales. However as of April 2016 part 3 of the Act, which relates to support for children and families provided by local authorities - including 'children in need', has been replaced in Wales by part 6 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
Key principles covered by the Children Act 1989 in Wales include local authorities’ duties to consider whether action should be taken to safeguard or promote children’s welfare and when to initiate care proceedings.
Strengthens the 1989 Act. Encourages partnerships between agencies and creates more accountability. Part 3 of the Children Act 2004 applies solely to Wales.
A number of sections of the Act have been amended, repealed or replaced by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, including the requirements for the establishment of local safeguarding children boards in Wales.
- The Children and Social Work Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. It mainly applies to England only and includes a wide range of provisions relating to support for children in care and care leavers; the welfare and safeguarding of children and regulation of the social work profession. Key provisions are outlined below.
- Section 2 of the Act requires English local authorities to publish information about services they offer to care leavers to help them adapt to adulthood and living independently.
- Section 3 requires English local authorities to appoint personal advisers for care leavers up to the age of 25.
- Sections 4 and 5 place duties on English local authorities and maintained school governing bodies to promote the educational attainment of looked after and previously looked after children.
- Sections 8 and 9 ensure that children’s long-term needs and their relationship with carers are considered and prioritised in care and adoption proceedings in England and Wales.
- Sections 12 to 15 of the Act provide for the establishment of a national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel for England.
- The panel will identify serious child protection cases which raise issues that are ‘complex or of national importance’. Reviews of these cases will focus on lessons around how local authorities and others should work together to safeguard children.
- Reports must be published unless the panel consider it inappropriate to do so, in which case they should publish information relating to lessons learnt.
- Section 16 sets out arrangements to replace the previous model of local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) in England.
- Safeguarding partners for a local authority area (named as the local authority, clinical commissioning group and police) are required to make arrangements to work together and with relevant agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the area.
- Under section 17, local safeguarding partners are required to identify serious child safeguarding cases which raise issues of importance to the area and, where they consider it appropriate, to arrange for these cases to be reviewed under their supervision.
- Reports on the outcomes of local child safeguarding practice reviews must be published (if this is considered appropriate) and copies given to the Secretary of State and the national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.
- Section 24 requires child death review partners (the local authority and clinical commissioning group) to make arrangements for the review of each death of a child normally resident in their area and, if appropriate, the deaths in their area of children who are not normally resident.
- The purpose of these reviews is to identify matters relating to the death that are relevant to the welfare of children in the area or to public health and safety.
- Section 34 requires all schools in England (academy, independent and maintained schools) to provide relationships education to pupils receiving primary education, and relationships and sex education to pupils receiving secondary education. Regulations must detail circumstances in which pupils can be excused from receiving relationships and / or sex education.
- Section 35 requires all schools in England to provide personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to all primary and secondary schools pupils.
- Section 36 establishes a new regulator for social work, Social Work England (SWE).
- SWE will be a non-departmental public body, or quango.
- SWE will need to obtain the Secretary of State’s approval for professional standards.
- The Secretary of State will also have new powers to set ‘improvement standards’ for social workers and introduce assessments for practitioners.
Established the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to make decisions about individuals who should be barred from working with children and to maintain a list of these individuals.
Merged the Independent Safeguarding Authority with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to form a single, new, non-departmental public body called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 provids Wales with its own framework for social services.
The guiding principles of the Act include:
- giving individuals a stronger voice and more control over the care and support they receive;
- encouraging a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.
Provisions in the Act include:
- strengthening powers for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults;
- establishing eligibility criteria which assess children and families on need rather than just on what services are available locally;
- introducing a National Outcomes Framework for setting out what children and families can expect from social services;
- introducing portable assessments, so that people who move from one part of Wales to another will receive the services they need in their new area;
- introducing equivalent rights for carers so that they receive the same levels of support as the people they care for;
- establishing a National Adoption Service
Includes a provision requiring school governing bodies, local education authorities and further education institutions to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
As amended by sections 73 and 74 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, makes provisions for FGM Protection Orders and the legal duty for regulated social care and health professionals and teachers to make a report to the police if a girl under 18 tells them she has undergone an act of FGM, or if they observe physical signs that a girl under 18 has undergone FGM.
Makes it a requirement for providers of internet pornography to prevent access to their material by anybody under the age of 18, and creates an age verification regulator, to publish guidelines about how this should be achieved. The regulator will have the power to fine providers that fail to comply, and require internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to any platform that makes extreme online pornographic material within the UK.
Also requires the Secretary of State to publish a code of practice for social media providers about responding to online bullying and harassment.
Legislates for the recommendations in the Care Matters white paper (DfES, 2007) to provide high quality care and services for children in care. It covers England and Wales (in part) and also places a duty on registrars to notify the Local Safeguarding Children Board of all child deaths.
Places a duty on the UK Border Agency to safeguard and promote children's welfare, bringing them in line with other public bodies that have contact with children.
Puts in place 7 wellbeing goals for everyone living in Wales.
Find out more from Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act: the essentials (PDF)
Policy and guidance
Programme for children and young people
(Welsh Government, 2015)
Underpinning Wales's approach to child protection is the importance placed in children's rights.
The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 made Wales the first country in the UK to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into its domestic law. This means that all Welsh policy and legislation has to take into account children's rights.
In 2015 the Welsh Government published its Programme for children and young people. The programme has 7 core aims, each linked to articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The programme says children and young people should:
- have a flying start in life
- have a comprehensive range of education and learning opportunities
- enjoy the best possible health and be free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation
- have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities
- be listened to, treated with respect, and have their race and cultural identity recognised
- have a safe home and a community which supports physical and emotional wellbeing
- not be disadvantaged by poverty
Codes of practice and statutory guidance
(Welsh Government, 2017)
A suite of guidance and codes of practice were issued under section 145 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. These documents set out the social services requirements for local authorities in Wales. The codes and guidance cover both services for adults and children.
There is one outstanding code of practice in relation to Part 7 of the Act, on handling individual cases to protect children and adults at risk. Once this has been published, the codes will replace Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004 in its entirety.
Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004
(Welsh Government, 2006)
Following the passing of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, this guidance is in the process of being updated by a suite of new codes of practice. Only chapter 8: handling individual cases still applies.
All Wales child protection procedures
(All Wales Child Protection Procedures Review Group, 2008)
Provides a common set of child protection procedures for every safeguarding board in Wales.
The Procedures are divided into 5 parts, covering:
- the context for child protection work
- what to do if it is suspected that a child is being abused or at risk of abuse
- the procedures to follow once a report of suspected abuse or neglect has been made
- the management of particular types of child abuse
- protocols developed by the All Wales Child Protection Procedures Review Group since 2002.
The Welsh Government has provided safeguarding boards with funding to enable the procedures to be updated and to take account of change brought in by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
(Home Office, 2015)
This gives health and social care professionals, teachers and the police information on their responsibilities under the female genital mutilation (FGM) mandatory reporting duty which came into force 31 October 2015. Covers: when and how to make a report; next steps following a report; and failure to comply with the duty.
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