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Applying social work law with children and families
Applying social work law with children and families

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4 Key legislation in the UK

The Children Act 1989 marked a radical legal change by ensuring that parents retain parental responsibility when their child enters public care and is looked after by the local authority. The Children Act 1989 recognises that the birth family has a symbolic and important place in the lives of individual children. Radical legal change has also been seen within Scotland, with the introduction of the Getting it Right for Every Child policy.

The mandate for practice for professionals working with children and families in England and Wales still comes largely from the Children Act 1989, additional legislation and the related guidance and regulations, for example: Working Together to Safeguard Children (Department for Education, 2018) which applies in England, and Safeguarding Children: Working Together under the Children Act 2004 (Welsh Assembly Government, 2007) which applies in Wales. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is also relevant; this took over Part 3 of the Children Act 1989, but all other parts of the Children Act 1989 continue to apply in Wales.

In Scotland, the mandate for practice comes from the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (C(S)A 1995) and guidance, such as the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2014).

In Northern Ireland, practice is directed by The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (C(NI)O 1995) and Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland guidance (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2017).