The Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 is the relevant statute that relates to the welfare of children. Its key elements are as follows:
- The paramountcy principle: This states that the welfare of children is at all times paramount and overrides all other considerations.
- The welfare checklist: This refers to a list of factors that are used to ensure that any decision made by the statutory agencies is done so with the child’s best interests in mind. These factors include:
- the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- the perceived effect (positive or otherwise) of changing their environment
- the child’s wishes and views wherever possible
- the capability of the child’s parents to meet their needs.
- The no delay/no order principle: No delay should occur in making decisions about a child’s future and courts should not make an order unless it is absolutely in the child’s best interests to do so.
Implications for GPs
- Although GPs provide care for people of all ages, their primary responsibility lies with the child.
- GPs who encounter children in need of protection should discuss their concerns either with social services or with named paediatricians who have a special interest in child protection.
- Sharing of information is a focal point of the child protection process. The Child Protection Case Conference represents the principle venue whereby this happens. Although attendance at conferences might not always be possible, it is important that the views of GPs are represented at conferences by means of a written report.
- All health professionals who have concerns regarding the welfare of children must maintain accurate and contemporaneous clinical notes.
- GPs are uniquely placed to provide continuing support for vulnerable families.
Last edited: 14/1/2004