What is the Children Act 1989?
The Children Act is an important law for children and young people. It started on 14th October 1991. It is about how children and young people should be brought up and cared for.
What does the Act say?
It says that:
- When a court or a local authority, which you may know as the council, is making decisions about a child, their first thought must be what is best for that child
- Young people should be brought up in their own family whenever possible
- Young people should not be taken away from their family, without the family agreement, unless the child is at risk of harm
- A local authority must work together with parents and children
- A court must put young people first when making decisions
- When children are being looked after by local authorities, they and their parents have rights
Why is the Act important?
It says how you can be protected and gives you certain rights. It says that you are a person who must be treated with respect.
- You should be protected
- You must be listened to
- If a local authority is deciding what should happen to you they have to find out what you feel and want. They must tell you what is happening and why. They must decide quickly what to do for you
- You must be told your rights
- You can talk about any worries you have or make a complaint if things go wrong
The Act says the local authority must help you if you will suffer without help or if you have a disability and need help.
The local authority may do this by finding you a place in an after-school or holiday club. Sometimes, to help you, they must help your family. They may send along a home helper if it is what is needed or perhaps they may offer a place in a nursery or a playgroup to your brother or sister who is too young to go to school.
The Act says that if you are in danger or at risk or harm in some way then you must be protected. It says that the local authority must listen if they are told you are in danger. They must consider what is happening and if necessary, go to court and ask the court to decide what is best for you. The court can make orders saying what is to happen to you.
The court will only make an order if it thinks this will make things better for you. If it doesn’t believe that, it will make no order.
The Act gives you other rights as well as those talked about earlier. These are
- A right to have your voice heard in some court cases that are about you
- A right to have your own solicitor, who can help you with legal issues, and tell him or her what you what you want to happen if you are able to understand what is involved
- A right, in some cases, to ask a court to look again at an order a lower court has made
- A right to say no to being assessed or medically examined (again if you understand what this involves)
- A right to be told certain things by the local authority if you are in care