Children’s services in England

The Children Act 1989 was the first piece of legislation to set out the duty of councils in regard to child protection. Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié, published in January 2003, led to an overhaul of children’s services in England in the form of the Labour government’s Every Child Matters white paper also published in 2003, and the subsequent Children Act 2004. The major change involved the dismantling of traditional social services and the merging of children’s social care with education and some health services to form a children’s services department within each council with a director of children’s services responsible for the safety and well-being of all children in a council’s area.

Every Child Matters

The Labour government’s White Paper set out five outcomes children’s services needed to help children achieve: being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and economic well-being.

Councils would be helped to achieve these goals via:

* ContactPoint: a national database containing details for all children in England (now scrapped).

* Common Assessment Framework (CAF): a voluntary early-intervention method to provide multi-agency support to families in need but who do not meet social care thresholds. A lead professional is responsible for co-ordinating the care.

* Director of children’s services: one person within a council to be responsible for education and children’s social care and co-ordinating multi-agency action.

* Lead member for children’s services: an elected council member in charge of children’s services and policy.

* Children’s Trusts: legislation ensured partner agencies had a “duty to co-operate” in delivering children’s services including health, schools, youth justice partners and councils. Children’s Trusts were designed to be a locally organised embodiment of this co-operation to instigate multi-agency teams and working and information sharing.

* Children and Young People’s Plans: Every council had to produce, by law, a multi-agency plan for how children’s services would be delivered each year.

* Local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs): replacements for area child protection committees. These would be responsible for overseeing a council’s safeguarding duties and also help provide multi-agency, safeguarding training. LSCBs would also publish a serious case review investigating failings following the death of a child. Following the Baby P case it was ordered that the chair of the LSCB had to be independent from the council.

* Children’s commissioner: the commissioner to act as an independent champion of children required to report annually to parliament.

* Children’s centres: accelerated plans to create a national network of Sure Start children’s centres to combine nursery, education, family support, employment advice, childcare and health services on one site for all children in the area.

* Integrated inspections: Ofsted to undertake inspections covering all agencies involved in delivering children’s services and to assess the effectiveness of multi-agency working.

Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government changes

Following the change of government in May 2010 the coalition government were committed to scrapping quangos and reducing the public sector budget. As a result, major changes have begun:

ContactPoint was scrapped. A replacement has not yet been announced.

Councils no longer had to produce annual children and young people plans nor set up children’s trusts by law. However, the duty to co-operate remained on most partner agencies except for schools.

A beefed-up office of the children’s commissioner to incorporate the responsibilities of the former children’s rights director.

A review of child protection procedures in England by Professor Eileen Munro to examine, among other things, how to improve the Ofsted inspections of children’s services.

Relevant legislation and policy documents

Children Act 1989

Every Child Matters

Children Act 2004

The Victoria Climbié Inquiry

The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report by Lord Laming

Key organisations

Department for Education (formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families)

Association of Directors of Children’s Services

Local Government Association

Children’s Commissioner


Latest children’s services jobs from Community Care

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.