The Act has duties, powers and responsibilities. A duty will require the local authority (LA) to comply with it, whereas a power means a LA can act. A responsibility refers to outcomes. Duties can be qualified, and in some areas the Act includes phrases like 'shall take reasonable steps to'. A qualified duty is little more than a mere power. Emphasis must be made as the nature of terms and definitions of the extent of LA responsibilities. Failure to understand this may cause misunderstandings between professionals. Generally, legislation only provides the framework for practice: it cannot change practice of itself, as only those using legislation can do that. Knowledge of the legislation and skills in using it are important but values, attitudes and beliefs that inform practice responses are also a prime consideration. Professionals' work with children and their families is a complex issue and constantly evolving and contradictory constraints, in particular the requirement to protect children from harm while avoiding unwarranted state intervention in family life.
The Children Act 1989, Part 1, contains fundamental principles that cover all parts of the Act. For example, children's and families cultural and linguistic diversity must be a key consideration when responding to them and developing partnerships with parents and care givers. Informed decisions should be made and practiced. The word partnership does not appear in the legislation and regulations but does feature in Government guidance and in the Department of Health (DoH) list of principles that emphasize a code of practice. The key principle underlying the Children Act without being a legal requirement is a commitment to working in partnership with children and their families.
Part III of the Act Sections 17 and 47 describe the duties and powers associated with the provision of services to children and families. These should be read in conjunction with Schedule 2. Part III gives a local authority a general duty: to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need - s.17(1)(a) promote the upbringing of children in need by their families by providing a range of services appropriate to those children's needs - s.17 (1)(b). Under the Act (s.17 (10) (a) (b) and (c)) a child is taken to be in need if:
"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 for him of services by a local authority under this Part; his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or he is disabled "
Preventions and Interventions
Functions and Duties of Involved Agencies - The Children Act 1989
(1)'It shall be the general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them) -
(a)to safeguard and p