Children living in different settings
Children living in different settings

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Children living in different settings

2.2 ‘Children in need’

All local authorities in the UK have a duty to provide services that look after the welfare of children. This duty is underpinned by the Children Act 1989 (England and Wales), the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The term ‘children in need’ derives from such legislation.

‘Children in need’ are defined similarly in legislation for each nation of the UK. The Children Act 1989 (England and Wales) section 17(10), for example, defines children in need as those who are unlikely to reach or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without help or whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired without the provision of services, or who are disabled.

Local authorities have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need within their area. So far as is consistent with that duty, they should promote the upbringing of such children by their families, by providing a range and a level of services appropriate to those children's needs.

Not all children living away from their parents will be defined as in need for example those living in fee-paying boarding schools. All children who are ‘looked after’ however, are by definition in need.


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