The Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 had as its aim a reformation of the child care system so that the welfare of the child was made paramount.
It allocated duties to local authorities, courts, parents and other agencies in the United Kingdom, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted. It centres on the idea that children are best cared for within their own families; however, it also makes provisions for instances when parents and families do not co-operate with statutory bodies.
The Act was also intended to strengthen the child’s legal position; to give him/her equal rights, feelings and wishes; and to ensure children were consulted and kept informed.
The Children Act 2004 further aimed to improve children’s lives and provided the legal support to the government’s ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children’ campaign.
As a result of the reformations brought about through the Children Act 2004, education and social care services for children were brought together under a director of children’s services in each local authority.
The Children and Young Person Act 2008 was the next Act concerning the welfare of children. Its main purpose was to effect the recommendations set out in the White Paper “Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care.” It was to form part of the Government’s programme to ensure children and young people received high quality care and support.
The most recent piece of legislation regarding children’s welfare is the Children and Families Act 2014. The Act is quite sweeping in its effect upon family law, covering both public and private children proceedings.
In public law proceedings, amongst other things, it imposes a 26-week deadline for care and supervision proceedings, it scraps the 28-day time limit for interim care/supervision orders and it introduces new provisions regarding post-adoption contact.
In relation to private law proceedings it has replaced Contact and Residence Orders with Child Arrangement Orders. Mediation is now a prerequisite before applying for court proceedings and there are rules regulating the use of expert testimony.
Other Acts closely linked to the Children Act are:
a) Protection of Children Act 1999
b) Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
c) Childcare Act 2006