A general duty is placed on every local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in need within their area. This duty is set by:
- Section 17 of the Children Act 1989
- Section 10/11 of the Children Act 2004
- recommendations in the Munro Review of Child Protection, 2011
- the Working together to safeguard children statutory guidance 2013
Children's social care must, so far as is consistent with this duty, promote the upbringing of children in need by their families, through provision of a range and level of services appropriate to the child's needs.
The Children Act 1989 states that a child shall be considered "in need" if:
- s/he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority
- their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of such services
- s/he is disabled
Before referring a child to children's social care under Section 17, professionals should in most cases, ensure that a common assessment framework (CAF) has been completed and consultation has taken place with any relevant agencies, including where appropriate early help services.