A History of Child Protection

By Virtual College

Pre 1600s

Orphaned children were the responsibility of the church. When they were old enough, the children would be sent to become apprentices in a process known as ‘binding-out’.


The Poor Law 1601 formalised the process of putting pauper and orphaned children into households as apprentices.


Thomas Coram established the Foundling Hospital for the ‘education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children’.


The Factory Acts sought to regulate the number of working hours and improve the conditions in which children worked.


Compulsory school attendance was introduced for 5 to 12 year olds by the National Education League and the first Barnardo’s Home was founded for destitute children.


The London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded to provide help for children. Branches opened across Great Britain and Ireland and it was renamed the NSPCC.


The Criminal Law Amendment Act raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 years old and introduced measures to protect girls from sexual exploitation.


The Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act was passed allowing police to arrest anyone mistreating a child and enter homes to prevent danger to children.


The Children’s Act of 1908 introduced juvenile courts and the Punishment of Incest Act made sexual abuse by a family member a legal matter, rather than a church matter.


The Children and Young Persons Act combined all child protection laws into a single piece of legislation and added further guidelines, such as the minimum working age for children (14).


The Children Act 1948 established a comprehensive childcare service, setting up a children’s committee and appointing a children’s officer in each local authority.


Area Child Protection Committees (ACPCs) were developed in England and Wales to coordinate efforts locally to safeguard children at risk.


The Children Act 1989 made children’s welfare the paramount concern of the courts. It also centred on the idea that children were best looked after by their family.


UK ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The convention covers all aspects of a child’s life and sets out the rights they are entitled to.


The Protection of Children Act 1999 aimed to prevent paedophiles from gaining employment which gave them access to children.


The Education Act required school governing bodies, local education authorities and further education institutions to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.


The Every Child Matters (ECM) initiative aimed to help children and young adults stay safe, be healthy, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.


The Children Act 2004 mandated local authorities to appoint a children's Director and replace ACPCs with statutory Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).


The statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children was released, outlining interagency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.


The Children and Families Act 2014 obtained royal assent and became law, giving greater protection to vulnerable children.


The Children and Social Work Act 2017 received Royal Assent. It includes a range of provisions from support for children in care and care leavers, to PHSE education for school pupils.