About this guidance
What is the status of this guidance?
Who is this guidance for?
A child-centred and coordinated approach to safeguarding

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.[1]

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.


[1] 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.

About this guidance


This guidance covers:

  • the legislative requirements and expectations on individual services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children; and
  • a clear framework for Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) to monitor the effectiveness of local services.

This document replaces Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013). Links to relevant supplementary guidance that professionals should consider alongside this guidance can be found at Appendix C.

What is the status of this guidance?


This guidance is issued under:

  • section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which requires local authorities in their social services functions to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State;
  • section 10(8) of the Children Act 2004, which requires each person or body to which the section 10 duty applies to have regard to any guidance given to them by the Secretary of State;
  • section 11(4) of the Children Act 2004 which requires each person or body to which the section 11 duty applies to have regard to any guidance given to them by the Secretary of State;
  • section 14B(7) of the Children Act 2004, which states that LSCBs must, in exercising their functions in respect of obtaining information, have regard to guidance given to them by the Secretary of State;
  • section 16(2) of the Children Act 2004, which states that local authorities and each of the statutory partners must, in exercising their functions relating to LSCBs, have regard to any guidance given to them by the Secretary of State;
  • section 175(4) of the Education Act 2002, which states that governing bodies of maintained schools (including maintained nursery schools), further education institutions and management committees of pupil referral units must have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State;
  • paragraph 7(b) of the Schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, made under sections 94(1) and (2) of the Education and Skills Act 2008, which states that the arrangements to safeguard or promote the welfare of pupils made by the proprietors of independent schools (including academies or free schools) or alternative provision academies must have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State; and
  • paragraph 3 of the Schedule to the Education (Non-Maintained Special Schools) (England) Regulations 2011, made under section 342 of the Education Act 1996, which requires arrangements for safeguarding and promoting the health, safety and welfare of pupils in non-maintained special schools to have regard to any guidance published on such issues.

This guidance applies to other organisations as set out in chapter 2. It applies, in its entirety, to all schools.


This document should be complied with unless exceptional circumstances arise.

Who is this guidance for?


This statutory guidance should be read and followed by local authority Chief Executives, Directors of Children’s Services, LSCB Chairs and senior managers within organisations who commission and provide services for children and families, including social workers and professionals from health services, adult services, the police, academy trusts, education, youth justice services and the voluntary and community sector who have contact with children and families. [2][3]

[2] Statutory guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the Director of Children’s Services and the Lead Member for Children’s Services.
[3] The reference to social workers throughout the documents means social workers who are registered to practice with the Health and Care Professions Council.


All relevant professionals should read and follow this guidance so that they can respond to individual children’s needs appropriately.


A version of the guidance for young people and a separate version suitable for  younger children are also available for practitioners to share.


In 2013-14 over 650,000 children in England were referred to local authority children’s social care services by individuals who had concerns about their welfare.


For children who need additional help, every day matters. Academic research is consistent in underlining the damage to children from delaying intervention. The actions taken by professionals to meet the needs of these children as early as possible can be critical to their future.


Children are best protected when professionals are clear about what is required of them individually, and how they need to work together.


This guidance aims to help professionals understand what they need to do, and what they can expect of one another, to safeguard children. It focuses on core legal requirements, making it clear what individuals and organisations should do to keep children safe. In doing so, it seeks to emphasise that effective safeguarding systems are those where:

  • the child’s needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, be they a baby or infant, or an older child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates;
  • all professionals who come into contact with children and families are alert to their needs and any risks of harm that individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • all professionals share appropriate information in a timely way and can discuss any concerns about an individual child with colleagues and local authority children’s social care;
  • high quality professionals are able to use their expert judgement to put the child’s needs at the heart of the safeguarding system so that the right solution can be found for each individual child;
  • all professionals contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare and take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans and outcomes;
  • LSCBs coordinate the work to safeguard children locally and monitor and challenge the effectiveness of local arrangements;
  • when things go wrong Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) are published and transparent about any mistakes which were made so that lessons can be learnt; and
  • local areas innovate and changes are informed by evidence and examination of the data.

Ultimately, effective safeguarding of children can only be achieved by putting children at the centre of the system, and by every individual and agency playing their full part, working together to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children.

A child-centred and coordinated approach to safeguarding

Key Principles


Effective safeguarding arrangements in every local area should be underpinned by two key principles:

  • safeguarding is everyone's responsibility: for services to be effective each professional and organisation should play their full part; and
  • a child-centred approach: for services to be effective they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.

Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility


Everyone who works with children – including teachers, GPs, nurses, midwives, health visitors, early years professionals, youth workers, police, Accident and Emergency staff, paediatricians, voluntary and community workers and social workers – has a responsibility for keeping them safe.


No single professional can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.


In order that organisations and practitioners collaborate effectively, it is vital that every individual working with children and families is aware of the role that they have to play and the role of other professionals. In addition, effective safeguarding requires clear local arrangements for collaboration between professionals and agencies.


Any professionals with concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to local authority children’s social care. Professionals should follow up their concerns if they are not satisfied with the local authority children’s social care response.


This statutory guidance sets out key roles for individual organisations and key elements of effective local arrangements for safeguarding. It is very important these arrangements are strongly led and promoted at a local level, specifically by:

  • a strong lead from local authority members, and the commitment of chief officers in all agencies, in particular the Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services in each local authority; and
  • effective local coordination and challenge by the LSCBs in each area (see chapter 3).

A child-centred approach


Effective safeguarding systems are child centred. Failings in safeguarding systems are too often the result of losing sight of the needs and views of the children within them, or placing the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children.


Children are clear what they want from an effective safeguarding system and this is described in the box below.


Children want to be respected, their views to be heard, to have stable relationships with professionals built on trust and to have consistent support provided for their individual needs. This should guide the behaviour of professionals. Anyone working with children should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; take their views seriously; and work with them collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs. A child-centred approach is supported by:

  • the Children Act 1989. This Act requires local authorities to give due regard to a child’s wishes when determining what services to provide under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. These duties complement requirements relating to the wishes and feelings of children who are, or may be, looked after (section 22(4) Children Act 1989), including those who are provided with accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and children taken into police protection (section 46(3)(d) of that Act);
  • the Equality Act 2010 which puts a responsibility on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. This applies to the process of identification of need and risk faced by the individual child and the process of assessment. No child or group of children must be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access effective services which meet their particular needs; and
  • the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is an international agreement that protects the rights of children and provides a child- centred framework for the development of services to children. The UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991 and, by doing so, recognises children’s rights to expression and receiving information.

Children have said that they need

  • Vigilance: to have adults notice when things are troubling them;
  • Understanding and action: to understand what is happening; to be heard and understood; and to have that understanding acted upon;
  • Stability: to be able to develop an on-going stable relationship of trust with those helping them;
  • Respect: to be treated with the expectation that they are competent rather than not;
  • Information and engagement: to be informed about and involved in procedures, decisions, concerns and plans;
  • Explanation: to be informed of the outcome of assessments and decisions and reasons when their views have not met with a positive response;
  • Support: to be provided with support in their own right as well as a member of their family;
  • Advocacy: to be provided with advocacy to assist them in putting forward their views.

In addition to individual practitioners shaping support around the needs of individual children, local agencies need to have a clear understanding of the collective needs of children locally when commissioning effective services. As part of that process, the Director of Public Health should ensure that the needs of vulnerable children are a key part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment that is developed by the health and well-being board. The LSCB should use this assessment to help them understand the prevalence of abuse and neglect in their area, which in turn will help shape services.