The 1989 Children Act is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom that is designed to safeguard children and promote their welfare. It stipulates the duties of parents, guardians, local authorities, and courts to ensure that children are well provided for and cared for both within their own families and by the state.

Child in Need relates to children that are deemed to be ‘in need’ through disability or unable to reach a reasonable level of development and health. If this is the case, the local authority has a duty to ensure safeguarding and promote their welfare.

Every child is different and each one has their own specific needs. This also applies to their parents, and sometimes parents are unable to provide for all of these needs alone. Child in Need is there to support and help these children and their parents in the best interest of the child.

If there is a child or children that are believed to be considered to be ‘in need’, an assessment is carried out under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

The legal definition

According to section 17 of the Children Act 1989, the legal definition of a child in need is a child that:

  • is “unlikely to achieve or maintain or to have the opportunity to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services from the Local Authority”
  • their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of services from the Local Authority;
  • has a disability

In this case, the term ‘disability’ can include children living with blindness, mental disorders and permanent illnesses, congenital deformities, deafness and dumbness, or injuries.

Other examples of children that are defined as being ‘in need’ include:

  • those who have SEND
  • those who have committed a crime
  • those who have sought asylum
  • those who are acting as young carers
  • those whose parents are in prison

A local authority has a duty to a child in need if they are within their area. Their ‘duty’ is to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, as well as promote the upbringing of the child by their family where possible.

Requesting and carrying out a child in need assessment

It is recommended that if you wish to make a request for a child in need under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989, you make it in writing, or ask a GP or health visitor to make the application on their behalf. This should be made to Children’s Services.

A child in need assessment should then be carried out. This assessment looks at a range of factors, including:

  • The child’s developmental requirements.
  • Whether the parents are able to appropriately respond to the child’s needs that have been identified.
  • Whether the parents have the capacity to respond to the child’s needs.
  • Whether the parents are able to “promote the child’s health and development”.
  • The impact of factors such as the family’s history and functioning, environmental factors, and the wider family are having on the parent’s capacity to “promote the child’s health and development”.
  • Whether there is any evidence that domestic violence may be occurring or have occurred.
  • Whether there are any other children in the household who should also be considered as children in need.

Support for a child in need

Following a child in need assessment, a plan will then be made that shows the way that the local authority can support the child and their family.

There are a number of factors that are set out in the child in need plan, including:

1. What is currently working well within the family

2. What support is needed for the child or family and why it is needed

3. Where the support and services will come from

4. What the child and/or their family have agreed to do relating to this

5. What the local authority expects the outcome to be from this support

6. The timeframe for this support. There should be a review planned within the first 3 months of the plan beginning, and regular reviews carried out throughout (at least every 6 months).

There is a range of different support services provided by the local authority depending on what they deem to be the most appropriate for the child. These can include:

  • Children under 5 could obtain day-care facilities
  • Cultural, occupational, recreational, and social activities
  • Family centres providing children a safe place to play and support for parents
  • Respite care for parents to take a break
  • Advice, counselling, or guidance
  • Help to enable children or families to take a holiday
  • Financial help such as loans, vouchers, or cash payments
  • Accommodation

Contact Waldrons Solicitors

Here at Waldrons, we have a team of experienced family law solicitors who can help you Contact us today to discuss your circumstances.

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