Last updated: 02.12.19

Safeguarding Children Legislation in the UK

What is the current legislation for Safeguarding Children in the UK?

There are many pieces of legislation and guidance that need to be known and understood if you are safeguarding children. Here we list and summarise the ones that are relevant to all UK countries. If you would like to know more about country-specific pieces, please select the relevant country: England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Children Act 1989

The Children Act 1989 reflects the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and highlights that the welfare of children must be of paramount consideration, placing a duty on local councils to carry out Section 47 enquiries where there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’.

Link: Children Act 1989

Children Act 2004

The Children Act 2004 introduced the Common Assessment Framework, which came into operation in 2006, and is an example of a standardised approach to improve the way in which services work together to provide early help to families. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places responsibility on safeguarding partners to make arrangements together to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in their local area.

Link: Children Act 2004

Children and Families Act 2014

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a 26-week time limit for courts to decide whether or not a child should be taken into care. It also provides children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 2;, introduced the Education, Health and Care Plan to support children and their families from birth to 25 years; made it a requirement of all state-funded schools to provide free school lunches for all pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, and made amendments made to the law to protect children cars from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Link: Children and Families Act 2014

Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 aims to reduce the spread of extremist ideology by identifying children and young people at high risk of exposure to said ideology, and engaging them in a mentoring programme.

Link: Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015

Education Act 2002

The Education Act 2002 sets out the safeguarding duties of schools and colleges.

Link: Education Act 2002

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989 is an international treaty and agreement between different governments to protect the rights of children under 18 to education, play, to not be separated from parents (unless in the child’s best interests), to be well cared for, to be listened to, to be able to take part in decisions about their lives, and to protection and help from the government.

Link: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989


The National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) are an independent organisation working to place pressure on government to improve child protection systems and legislation across the UK. They provide a wealth of guidance, information and support around child protection and safeguarding issues for anyone working with children.