Local Authority support for children and families: Powers and Duties 

Children’s Act 1989  

The Children’s Act 1989 s17-20 gives local authorities the power to intervene in private matters in order to protect and promote the welfare of children within their governed area.  Every local authority is bound by a moral and legal obligation to provide support and assistance to children within their local areas the emphasis on children who are in need of outside protection.

S17 (1) It shall be the general duty of every local authority:

  1. to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  2. so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

Children in Need

Every local authority must take reasonable steps to identify the extent to which the children in there area are in need.

Under section 17(1) Children’s Act 1989, a child is considered to be a child in need if:

  • S/he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the help of the services by the local Authority
  • Without the help or provisions of the local authority their development will be significantly or further impaired.
  • S/he is disabled. Disabled for this are being blind, deaf or dumb, suffers a mental condition or is substantially and permanently handicapped.

Powers and Duties of the Local authority

For the purpose of providing care for children in need within a community, the local authority will have specific powers and duties set out under the following schedules.

Schedule 2, Part 1, paragraph 4(1) Children’s Act 1989

Every local authority should take all reasonable steps to ensure and prevent children within their area suffering ill-treatment or neglect.

Schedule 2, Part 1, Paragraph 7

Every local authority shall take reasonable care to reduce the need for care or supervision orders for children within their area.

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For more information on:

  • Accommodation for children
  • Voluntary provisions for accommodation under s20 Children’s Act 1989