Legislation for Safeguarding

Legislation for Safeguarding Children

Due to the importance of preventing the harm, abuse and neglect of children and promoting their well-being, legislation for safeguarding has always existed at the heart of children’s child protection policies, procedures and practices. If you are a person or a business who has indirect or direct contact with children, you must fully understand your safeguarding responsibilities in relation to this legislation, especially if you are responsible for creating the safeguarding policy for your setting.

There are a number of pieces of legislation for safeguarding of children, including several Acts and statutory guidance documents which are always being amended or updated. This information is the foundation of your safeguarding children policies and procedures in your organisation.

In this blog, we have produced a comprehensive timeline which includes many of the key pieces of legislation for safeguarding from a historical perspective. It’s also worth considering that safeguarding is structured and regulated by different organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so there may be some regional variations in legislation.

It is important to note that our timeline does not include every piece of legislation that has influenced and contributed to the development of the child protection system. We recommend that you consult the NSPCC’s timeline of the history of child protection which includes some very high profile child abuse deaths, subsequent inquiries and other important links to legislation and publications.


The Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989

Before the Children Act came into effect in 1989, there was no piece of legislation that covered child protection in the UK. The Act states that a child’s welfare is the paramount consideration of their upbringing. It details what local authorities and the courts should do to protect the welfare of children and charges local authorities with the duty to investigate.

These include the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, their physical, emotional and educational needs, and any harm which they have suffered or is at risk of suffering.

The Education Act 1996
The Education Act 1996

The Education Act addressed the need for statutory education guidance that covered compulsory school age and the role of local authorities in providing education for children. It also stated that it is the responsibility for parents or guardians to ensure that their child is in full time education when they are the outline compulsory age. Said education should fulfil the requirements of the child is they have any special needs, too.

The Education Act 2002
The Education Act 2002

Following on from the Act’s introduction in 1996, the 2002 renewal set out requirements for schools, nurseries, and further education providers that would lay out the groundwork for safeguarding the welfare of children.  It requires anyone working with children to share their concerns when it relates to a child’s safety and wellbeing.

The Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021 applied these guidelines to academies and independent training providers.

The Children Act 2004
The Children Act 2004

The Children Act 2004 is not a replacement for the 1989 Act. After the Victoria Climbie inquiry, this legislation aims to improve and integrate children’s services by promoting early intervention. It encourages the inclusion of multi-disciplinary teams to achieve positive outcomes for children.

The Children Act 2004 lays out the framework for better planning and delivery of children’s protective services. This includes better accountability for local council’s children’s services.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 is a key piece of legislation for businesses when they’re recruiting new staff members and volunteers. It was passed to help avoid businesses recruit people who are deemed unsuitable to work with children. It developed a centralised vetting process that all those who would potentially work closely with children need to go through.

Children and Young Persons Act 2008
Children and Young Persons Act 2008

This act reformed much of the acre system that existed in England and Wales when it was introduced. It stated that both schools and local authorities to designate a member of staff or personal adviser to promote and care for the welfare of a children and young people. This is to ensure that their educational achievements reach each young person’s potential.

It also requires local authorities to pay a bursary to children in care so they can undertake higher education.

The Children and Families Act 2014
The Children and Families Act 2014

Vulnerable children often need better support from the care system as a result of separated parents or other instances. The Children and Families Act of 2014 created a new system to help these children – by helping the entire family. Among many aspects, it makes young and parent carer’s rights to support from councils clearer and reforms children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure, improving the quality of care that vulnerable children receive.

The Children and Social Work Act 2017
what is level 3 safeguarding training

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 was created to improve the welfare and safeguarding for looked-after children and regulate the work of social workers. It formed the foundations for the establishment of a new regulatory regime specifically for the social work profession in England. It also promoted the safeguarding of children by providing relationship guidance and the necessary teaching of sex education in schools.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018
safer internet day

This piece of legislation is specifically aimed at professionals that work in the services that safeguard children. The Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 Act aims to help those working in safeguarding agencies understand what they need to do to promote the welfare of children. It outlines the central legal requirements – emphasizing the requirements that make an effective safeguarding system.

Keeping Children Safe in Education
safeguarding for out of school clubs

Keeping Children Safe in Education is statutory guidance that schools and colleges in England must read and act on with regard to carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is essential that everybody working in a school or college understands their safeguarding responsibilities by reading this document. It is regularly updated and the latest version replaces all previous versions.

Other Legislation for Safeguarding

There are so many pieces of legislation for safeguarding that we haven’t included on our timeline. Below, you can find some of the key additional legislation you may need to be aware of if you work in a safeguarding role:

LegislationMore Information
Human Rights Act 1998  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents
Sexual Offences Act 2003  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/contents
The Equality Act 2010  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
Serious Crime Act 2015  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/9/contents/enacted
Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/6/contents/enacted
The Data Protection Act 2018https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2018/12/contents/enacted
Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/2/contents/enacted  

Safeguarding Training Courses

Our online safeguarding courses are all updated in line with the latest government guidance and legislation and fulfils the requirements of major inspecting bodies like Ofsted.

If you would like to speak to a member of our customer support team please get in touch today by calling us on 01327 530260, emailing us at hello@smarthorizons.co.uk, or using the live chat feature on our website.

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