Understanding the Welfare Checklist in the Children Act 1989

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Blog, Child Protection

The welfare checklist is at the heart of the Children Act 1989. It is not a piece of legislation many Designated Safeguarding Leads frequently come across. yet it is fundamental to the way child protection cases are managed. Personally, I think it is useful part of child protection law to be familiar with, whether you work with young children or older teens.

This blog is designed as a reference point for you, for those few times you may need to consider it.

Where does the Welfare Checklist come from? 

The welfare checklist sits right at the beginning of the Children Act 1989. The Act itself is a landmark piece of legislation in the United Kingdom which revolutionised the approach to child welfare and protection. One of its key provisions is the welfare checklist, a comprehensive set of factors that guide courts in making decisions about the upbringing and care of children involved in family law proceedings. The welfare checklist is designed to prioritise the best interests of children and ensure their safety, happiness, and well-being. In this blog post, we will delve into the components of the welfare checklist and understand its significance in safeguarding children’s rights.

What does the Welfare Checklist say?

The welfare checklist is a set of 7 principles but, outside of any court proceedings, you don’t need to worry about the 7th (that is just the range of powers available to the court).

The 6 principles to be aware of as a practitioner, are:

  1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child: This factor acknowledges the importance of taking into account the child’s own thoughts and opinions. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, their views should be heard and given due weight when making decisions that affect their lives.
  2. The child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs: This criterion encompasses various aspects of a child’s well-being. It highlights the importance of considering their health, development, and educational requirements to ensure they have access to suitable medical care, emotional support, and educational opportunities.
  3. The likely effect of any changes in the child’s circumstances: This factor emphasises the need to assess how any proposed changes may impact the child’s life. It involves examining the potential consequences of altering their living arrangements, school, or social environment, and evaluating whether such changes are in the child’s best interests.
  4. The child’s age, sex, background, and any other relevant characteristics: Recognising the individuality of each child, this element stresses the importance of considering their age, gender, cultural background, religious beliefs, and any other relevant factors that may influence their well-being.
  5. Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering: This criterion underscores the need to protect children from harm, abuse, or neglect. Courts must assess any evidence of past harm or the risk of future harm and prioritise the child’s safety when making decisions about their future. Your evidence of any harm can be very important in establishing this element.
  6. The capability of the child’s parents (or any other relevant individuals) to meet the child’s needs: This factor assesses the ability of the child’s parents, carers or other significant individuals to provide a safe and nurturing environment. It considers factors such as parenting skills, mental and physical health, and the presence of any domestic violence or substance abuse issues.

Conclusion

The welfare checklist enshrined in the Children Act 1989 is a crucial tool that guides courts in ensuring the best interests of children are protected during family law proceedings. By comprehensively assessing the child’s wishes, needs, circumstances, and potential risks, the welfare checklist promotes a holistic approach to decision-making. It places paramount importance on safeguarding the child’s well-being, emphasising their physical, emotional, and educational needs. Moreover, by considering the child’s individual characteristics and involving them in the decision-making process to an appropriate extent, it recognises their rights and agency.

As safeguarding leads, the checklist can be a vital guide to help manage cases and ensure consideration of all key factors is set out when making referrals.

The welfare checklist is a testament to society’s commitment to prioritising the welfare and protection of children. By adhering to the principles outlined in the welfare checklist, we can collectively work towards creating a safer, nurturing, and more supportive environment for children, ensuring that their best interests are at the heart of all work we do with young people.

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As we conclude our exploration of the welfare checklist, the journey doesn’t end with understanding its importance; it begins with taking decisive action to create safer spaces for everyone. This is where the Safeguarding Leaders Hub comes into play—a community dedicated not just to learning but to leading change.

Joining the Safeguarding Leaders Hub isn’t merely a sign-up; it’s a step towards becoming part of a movement. A movement where knowledge meets action, where resources are not just shared but implemented, and where each member is committed to elevating safeguarding standards within their sphere of influence.

By becoming a member, you gain access to a wealth of resources, training modules, expert advice, and a network of like-minded professionals. But more importantly, you become a beacon of change. Each member’s active participation and contribution amplify our collective ability to protect and empower those we serve.

So, as we part ways in this blog post, let this not be the end of your journey with safeguarding but a bold step towards becoming a leader in this critical field. Join the Safeguarding Leaders Hub today. Embrace the opportunity to make a difference, to learn, share, and lead by example. Together, we can forge a future where safeguarding is not just a policy but a culture embedded in the very fabric of our organizations.

The time to act is now. Become a member of the Safeguarding Leaders Hub, and let us transform our collective commitment into tangible actions that safeguard the well-being of our communities. Let’s not just be participants in this crucial conversation; let’s be the leaders who shape its outcome. Join us, and together, let’s lead the way to a safer tomorrow.

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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Flounders disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.

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