Legislation and policies that surround safeguarding children

26th June 2019 by Eve Johnson

In this article

  • What legislation and policies surround safeguarding children?

  • Key information from the legislation

  • The Children Act 1989

  • Equality Act 2010

  • Children and Families Act 2014

  • The United Nations convention on the Rights of the Child 1992

  • The Human Rights Act 1998

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019

  • Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

  • The Children and Social Work Act 2017

  • The Education Act 2002

  • Designated Safeguard Lead

  • Summary


If you work with, or around, children in any capacity safeguarding must be at the forefront of your practice. Safeguarding refers to keeping a child safe both in a care setting, such as a school, and at home. Safeguarding is something which is taken extremely seriously in childcare settings, and for good reason too. The Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of child abuse before the age of 16. This equated to over 8.5 million people. The safety of children is to take a priority above all else and if you work with children it is your responsibility to ensure that you understand what your role is in terms of safeguarding and applying government guidance to your practice. This blog will help you to refresh your knowledge of current policy and practice surrounding the safeguarding of children and young people, therefore helping you to ensure that you are fulfilling your duties. In England, the Department for Education is responsible specifically for child protection However, In Northern Ireland The Department of Health is responsible for child protection. In Wales the Social Services and Wellbeing Act 2014 is responsible for child protection and provide the legal framework. In Scotland, the Scottish Government is responsible for child protection. Did you know that 1 in 10 children have experienced neglect and 13,000 children live in households with high-risk domestic abuse. Let’s start with the definition… The definition of safeguarding, as per the Working Together to Safeguard Children Legislation, is:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment.

  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development.

  • Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care.

  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Essentially, safeguarding is how you ensure the safety of the children in your care. It is the responsibility of every professional that comes into contact with a child, not simply those who work in education. Knowing the key legislation and policy ensures that you are able to do all you can to protect the children in your care.

What legislation and policies surround safeguarding children? There are many different policies and legislation out there regarding safeguarding children, as it is such a fundamental aspect of education and childcare. The key pieces of legislation that you might be aware of are:

  • The Children Act 1989 (as amended).

  • The Children and Social Work Act 2017.

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019.

  • Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.

  • The Education Act 2002.

  • The United Nations convention on the Rights of the Child 1992.

  • The Equality Act 2010.

  • The Children and Families Act 2014.

  • The Human Rights Act 1998.

Key information from the legislation While every part of the legislation is essential, understanding the key aspects and takeaways from the legislation is important for all people involved in the care of children and young people. Nobody expects you to be able to recite the documents by rote, but understanding the key message is important. If you would like to read in more depth about government guidance, you can do so here: Government Guidance.

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The Children Act 1989 The full document can be found here: Children Act 1989. The essentials of this piece of legislation are –

  • To allow children to be healthy.

  • Allowing children to remain safe in their environments.

  • Helping children to enjoy life.

  • Assist children in their quest to succeed.

  • Help make a contribution – a positive contribution – to the lives of children.

  • Help achieve economic stability for our children’s futures.

The Children Act outlined the definition of Children in Need, which is a useful definition to be aware of. “a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a Local Authority; or

  • a child whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired; or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or

  • a child is disabled”

It therefore places the responsibility with the local authority to ensure that these children are safeguarded. Local authorities are tasked with attempting to ensure, wherever possible, that children are brought up in their own families. This definition is key to safeguarding as in 2019 there were 399,500 children considered to be a child in need. Equality Act 2010 The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect people or groups of people who have one or more ‘protected characteristics’. These protected characteristics are features of people’s lives upon which discrimination, in the UK is now illegal. The protected characteristics listed in the Act are: 1. Age. 2. Disability. 3. Sexual orientation. 4. Sex. 5. Gender reassignment. 6. Marriage and civil partnership. 7. Pregnancy and maternity. 8. Race. 9. Religion and belief. This means that equal and fair treatment to everyone must be applied in a variety of aspects of everyday life including work, leisure and health and social care. It stipulates the following with regards to how individuals should be treated equally and fairly:

  • Every individual has the right to be treated equally and fairly and not be discriminated against regardless of any ‘protected characteristics’.

  • Every individual has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

  • Health services have a duty to ensure that services are fair and meet the needs of everyone, regardless of their background or current circumstances.



Children and Families Act 2014

This Act aims to ensure that greater protection is available for children who have been classed as vulnerable. It includes children who may be in foster care and those who are looked after or have additional needs. The Act also ensures that a Education, Health and Care Plan is produced for any child who has been identified as having additional needs.

The United Nations convention on the Rights of the Child 1992

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) underpins many pieces of legislation that relate to the roles of individuals who work with children, such as the Children Act (2004) and the Equality Act 2010. The UNCRC highlights the importance of treating every child as a unique person, which helps to ensure that all of their needs are met in a way that is specific to them, enabling them to have a high quality of life.

The Human Rights Act 1998

Human rights within the United Kingdom are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998, which means that if an individual believes that their human rights have been breached, they can take action against this in a court of law. Examples of rights that are contained within the Act, known as ‘Articles’ are:

  • The right to freedom from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • The right to liberty and security.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

  • The right to freedom of expression.

  • The right of access to an education.

Although usually associated with adults, this Act provides equal rights to children who are also protected by its content.

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019

This document can be found here: Keeping Children Safe in Education. This document outlines statutory guidance for keeping children safe in schools and colleges. It is an update from the 2016 document. It is organised into five parts. 1. Safeguarding information for all staff (make sure all the staff in your school read at least this part) 2. The management of safeguarding 3. Safer recruitment 4. Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff 5. Child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment

The key takeaway from this document is the focus on making sure that all staff are knowledgeable about safeguarding and current legislation. It provides a step-by-step approach for how safeguarding should be structured in schools and colleges, and what good practice looks like. Staff roles and responsibilities Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility. All staff should make sure that any decisions made are in the best interests of the child. All staff should –

  • Provide a safe environment in which children can learn.

  • Know about (and feel confident to use) school safeguarding systems, including: – Policies on child protection, pupil behaviour and staff behaviour (your code of conduct). – Your safeguarding response to children who go missing from education. – The role and identity of your designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and any deputies.


They need to know –