Local authorities have overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children and young people in their area. They have a number of statutory functions under the 1989 and 2004 Children Acts which make this clear, and this guidance sets these out in detail. This includes specific duties in relation to children in need and children suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, regardless of where they are found, under sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989. The Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services in local authorities are the key points of professional and political accountability, with responsibility for the effective delivery of these functions.
Whilst local authorities play a lead role, safeguarding children and protecting them from harm is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a role to play.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of this guidance as:
- protecting children from maltreatment;
- preventing impairment of children's health or development;
- ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
- taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
Local agencies, including the police and health services, also have a duty under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 to ensure that they consider the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when carrying out their functions.
Under section 10 of the same Act, a similar range of agencies are required to cooperate with local authorities to promote the well-being of children in each local authority area (see chapter 1). This cooperation should exist and be effective at all levels of the organisation, from strategic level through to operational delivery.
Professionals working in agencies with these duties are responsible for ensuring that they fulfil their role and responsibilities in a manner consistent with the statutory duties of their employer.
 In this document a child is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ therefore means ‘children and young people’ throughout.