Principles of the Children Act

The following is based in An Adviser's Guide to the Children Act (Department of Health, 1991), and Working Together Under the Children Act (HMG 2010).

The Main Principles of the Act:

    • the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration
    • wherever possible, children should be brought up and cared for within their own families
    • parents with children in need should be helped to bring up their children themselves; this help would be provided as a service to the child and his family and should:
    • ◦ be provided in partnership with
      ◦ meet each child's identified needs;
      ◦ be appropriate to the child's race, culture, religion and language;
      ◦ be open to effective independent representations and complaints procedures;
      ◦ draw upon effective partnership between the local authority and other agencies, including voluntary agencies.

Children should be safe and be protected by effective intervention if they are at risk of significant harm

In respect of children, courts should ensure to avoid delay, and may only make and Order if doing so is better than taking no order

The views of children should be sought according to their age and understanding and should be informed about what happens to them.

Parents continue to have parental responsibility for their child, even when they are no longer living with them. Importantly parents should be kept informed about their children and participate in decisions made about their child’s future

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility is defined in Section 3(1) of the Children Act as 'all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent has in relation to a child and his property'.

It is the people with parental responsibility who have the legal authority with respect to their child; they are the decision makers who must be consulted.

It is important to realise that for children in public care their parents retain parental responsibility; either:

  • Sharing it with the local authority, in the case of those on Care Orders;
  • or Entirely, in the case of those 'accommodated' under Section 20.