Guide to Safeguarding Children Legislation

October 10, 2018
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If you work with or around children, such as in a school, safeguarding is an important responsibility that you must take seriously. In order to properly fulfil your safeguarding duties, you need to understand what the law requires and keep up to date with any amendments or changes to it.

The government frequently revisits safeguarding legislation and statutory guidance documents, with the aim of strengthening safeguarding procedures and making guidance as clear as possible. As a result, it can be difficult to keep track of new requirements and how they impact your role.

Teacher with young children teaching music

Therefore, this guide focuses on Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education, as they outline the legislative requirements of those responsible for safeguarding children. We regularly monitor key changes and have updated this guide to reflect the most recent amends in 2019.

As these two documents regularly receive updates, it’s crucial for you to keep on top of the key changes. Doing so will enable you to make any necessary amends to your safeguarding policies or implement new procedures in your organisation, so you can continue to keep children safe from harm.

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What Current Safeguarding Children Legislation Applies to You?drop down menu

What Current Safeguarding Children Legislation Applies to You?

There are a number of policies, legislation, and statutory guidance documents that the Department for Education (the governing body for safeguarding children) have created and updated over time. These apply to all local authorities and organisations who are responsible for children’s safety.

For example, it applies to schools, youth groups and charities, and sports clubs. Simply put, safeguarding applies to anyone who works with or around children.

The main pieces of legislation and guidance documents that you should be aware of include:

  • The Children Act 1989 (as amended).
  • The Children and Social Work Act 2017.
  • The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.
  • Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019.

There are also others worth noting, which have prompted changes to safeguarding requirements over time. This guide references these throughout where relevant:

  • GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.
  • Information Sharing: Advice for Practitioners 2018.
  • Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges (guidance document) 2018.
  • Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.
  • Childcare Act 2006 (as amended in 2018).

Teacher reading safeguarding documents changes

If you have safeguarding responsibilities, these all apply to you. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the two guidance documents (Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education) as these detail all the legislative requirements in an accessible format for you.

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Working Together to Safeguard Children

The Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance document sets out the responsibilities that all organisations in England must fulfil to safeguard children and young people (which applies to anyone under the age of 18). It explains the need for local authorities (including the police and health services) and other relevant agencies to coordinate with each other, so they can appropriately respond to safeguarding concerns and promote children’s welfare.

Key amendments to the guidance as of 2015:

Referral of Allegations Against Those Working with Children.

This update aimed to improve coordination and make sure that those who deal with allegations are qualified social workers.  Organisations must route any allegations made against people who work with children through children’s social care. The new proposals meant that referrals could be dealt with alongside child welfare concerns.

Definition of Serious Harm.

To help Local Safeguarding Children Boards (now known as Local Safeguarding Partners) make better-informed decisions about whether a case is notifiable (i.e. whether they should report it to the authorities), the updated edition of Working Together included a definition of ‘seriously harmed’. It stated that serious harm includes, but is not limited to, cases, where the child has sustained, as a result of abuse or neglect, (a) potentially life-threatening injury or (b) serious or likely long-term impairment of physical/mental health or physical, intellectual, emotional, social, or behavioural development.

Notifiable Incidents Involving the Care of a Child.

To clarify what constitutes a ‘notifiable incident’, the government added a new section on notifiable incidents. This section listed the criteria that an incident must meet in order to be defined as a notifiable incident. The section has since been made redundant however, as Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panels have replaced the Serious Case Review Panels and new requirements are in place.

Teacher doing school activities with young children


This update explained that all organisations with safeguarding duties must have an internal whistleblowing policy. The policy should be clear about procedures and integrated into training, so that all employees are aware of guidelines. It also states that the policy should reflect the principles of Sir Robert Francis’ ‘Freedom to Speak Up Review’.

Preventable Child Deaths.

This update included a new definition of preventable child deaths: “those in which modifiable factors may have contributed to the death. These are factors defined as those, where, if actions could be taken through national or local interventions, the risk of future child deaths could be reduced.” Requirements for reviewing child deaths has since been amended, but this definition is still relevant.

LSCB Annual Reports.

The new guidance set out the requirements for LSBCs (now known as local safeguarding partners) to conduct regular assessments of the partners’ responses to child sexual exploitation and include information on the outcome of these assessments. Duties surrounding reports have since altered slightly, though the 2018 guidance still requires LSPs to produce annual reports.

As well as these key changes, the 2015 update also clearly clarified that the Working Together guidance – alongside Keeping Children Safe in Education – applies to all schools, including independent schools, academies, and free schools.

Unless otherwise stated, the amendments listed above still stand and are relevant to anyone who must follow the guidance set out in Working Together. 

Key amendments to the guidance as of 2018:

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 was put in place following the introduction of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which made changes to various aspects of child protection, child welfare, social work, and other aspects of safeguarding.

Aside from the changes listed below, there have been other minor tweaks in places. These include slight alterations to terminology and stronger references to providing relevant training to staff. The information below only details the key amendments that are likely to impact your safeguarding system and require you to make changes.

LSCBs are now known as Local Safeguarding Partners (or partnerships).

LSPs in each area must consist of three partners: local authorities, chief officers of police, and clinical commissioning groups. The guidance states that they share equal responsibility and must work together with relevant agencies to safeguard children. Partnerships are expected to name schools and other educational providers as relevant agencies.

As of the 29th June 2018, local authorities must transition from LSCBs to safeguarding partners and transfer child death review partner arrangements by the 29th September 2019. After they publish their arrangements, they have up to 3 months to implement them.

Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

As of June 2018, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (CSPRP) replaced the Serious Case Review Panel. They are now in charge of overseeing serious safeguarding cases and commissioning national reviews of cases. This was previously the responsibility of LSCBs.

Child Death Reviews are now the responsibility of Child Death Review Partners (Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group). They can organise these along the same lines as the old Child Death Overview Panels and should appoint other partners to contribute to the reviews. For example, they should appoint a designated doctor.

Local safeguarding partners must report to the CSPRP if: a child dies or is seriously harmed in the local authority’s area, or dies outside of England but normally resides in the local authority’s area, as a result of known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

New sections on assessing need and providing help.

The guidance now contains a list of vulnerabilities that may potentially put a child at greater need for early help. For example, children who have disabilities, who show signs of being drawn into anti-social or criminal behaviour, misuse of drugs or alcohol, those subject to difficult family circumstances, and more.

It also contains a new section on assessments for disabled children and their carers, young carers, and children in secure youth establishments.

Contextual safeguarding.

Contextual safeguarding is a new section that expands on child protection procedures and improve their effectiveness. It is “an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families.” (Definition taken from the Contextual Safeguarding Network).

Distressed teenager sitting against a wall

It emphasises the importance of considering every aspect of a child’s life that may impact their wellbeing, rather than limiting it to one area. Therefore, it is crucial for those assessing the needs of children to consider wider environmental factors that may be affecting their safety collectively. For example, they may be at risk of extremism if they are bullied at school and seek a sense of belonging. Issues at home could worsen this, such as if their parents neglect their needs.

Information sharing.

The guidance document now includes a section about data protection and its changes following GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. It also addresses misconceptions surrounding data protection and sharing information, particularly in the case of reporting concerns. It clarifies that the DPA and GDPR do not prevent organisations from collecting and sharing personal information, and that there are situations where it’s not necessary to gain consent. For example, those where a child’s or young person’s safety is at risk.

Responsibilities of organisations working with children and families.

This version has expanded on and introduced sections relating to:

  • People in positions of trust. This new section clarifies that organisations who work with children and their families must have sufficient policies in place, primarily those for dealing with allegations against people working with children. It states that an allegation may relate to someone who works with children and has a) behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child, b) potentially committed a criminal offence against, or related to, a child, or c) behaved towards a child (or children) in a manner that indicates they may pose a risk of harming them.
  • Early years and childcare. The section on early years and childcare includes a new requirement: all early year providers must implement a policy and procedure to safeguard children. The policy must explain the actions they’ll take as a result of a safeguarding concern. It must also cover mobile phones and cameras.

Other new and amended sections include those on designated health professionals, children’s homes, voluntary and charity organisations etc., and sports clubs and organisations.

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Keeping Children Safe in Education

All education settings (including schools, colleges, and nurseries) must follow the statutory guidance set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education (as well as Working Together to Safeguard Children). Keeping Children Safe in Education clearly explains how to fulfil your safeguarding duties and promote the welfare of children. Like Working Together, ‘children’ refers to anyone under the age of 18.

Key amendments to the guidance as of 2016:

Safeguarding is Everybody’s Responsibility.

The 2016 update included a clear statement that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. The new guidance stated that ‘everyone who comes into contact with children and their families and carers has a role to play in safeguarding children’. It encouraged professionals to take a child-centred approach and to consider the best interests of a child at all times.

Professionals Need to Share Information.

The update stated that no single person can understand the full picture of a child’s life. Therefore, all professionals must share information to get a fuller picture of the child’s needs and circumstances.

Better Awareness Needed of the ‘Early Help Process’.

The update included new guidance on early help, stating that ‘all school and college staff should be prepared to identify children who may benefit from early help’. It defined early help as ‘providing support as soon as a problem emerges at any point in a child’s life, from the foundation years through to the teenage years’. Furthermore, it emphasised the importance of staff understanding how to complete early help assessments and keeping these cases under constant review.

What to Do If You Have Concerns.

The update in 2016 also clarified the protocols that staff must follow if there is concern about a child. It also included further updated advice about what staff should do when they fear a child is in immediate danger (i.e. contact the police or children’s social care immediately). Anyone can make a referral in these circumstances; it does not need to be the designated safeguarding lead. However, you should inform the safeguarding lead about the action as soon as possible.

Children playing on a football pitch


The guidance includes a section on whistleblowing procedures, including information on what to do if staff feel unable to report a concern in their organisation. It also advises staff who feel unable to use the internal route of whistleblowing to contact the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline. In circumstances where there are concerns surrounding the head teacher, staff should report allegations to the designated officers at their local authority.

Complexity of Abuse.

The guidance included a new definition of abuse to acknowledge and clarify its complexity. It stated that abuse is ‘a form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may face abuse in a family or in an institutional or community setting from those known to them or, more rarely, by others (e.g. via the internet). They may be abused by an adult or adults or by another child or children’.

Children Missing from Education.

The guidance provided further information on a child missing from education, listing that this could indicate ‘abuse or neglect and such children are at risk of being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation.’ It also states that ‘school and college staff should follow their procedures for unauthorised absence and for dealing with children that go missing from education, particularly on repeat occasions’.

It also emphasised the importance of schools and colleges understanding other potential safeguarding concerns. For example, travelling to conflict zones, female genital mutilation, and forced marriage
Unless otherwise stated, the amendments listed above still stand and are relevant to anyone who must follow the guidance set out in Keeping Children Safe. 

Key amendments to the guidance as of 2018:

The Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance document has recently received several changes and additions to improve safeguarding procedures. Many of these overlap with the amendments in Working Together, though several are unique to schools and are important for you to understand if you work in one.

Peer-on-peer abuse, child sexual exploitation, and sexual violence and harassment.

The guidance now places stronger emphasis on tackling peer-on-peer abuse and states that schools’ policies must clearly explain how they’ll deal with these issues.

More specifically, the guidance outlines a clear definition of what the different forms of peer-on-peer abuse are. It states that it can include ‘bullying (including cyberbullying); sexual violence and sexual harassment; physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm; sexting and initiating/hazing type violence and rituals’. Furthermore, it explains what the school’s child protection policy should include and how the school will support children affected by peer on peer abuse. For example, the policy should state that “abuse is abuse and should never be tolerated or passed off as “banter”, “just having a laugh” or “part of growing up””.

Teenager in a living room on her phone

Another key addition is new information about sexual violence and sexual harassment. As the government guidance document “Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges” has been published, Keeping Children Safe now includes a summary of this document. The summary clarifies that a school’s systems, policies, and training must address sexual violence and sexual harassment between children, so staff know how to help prevent it.

It states that “Staff should be aware of the importance of:

  • Making clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable, will never be tolerated and is not an inevitable part of growing up;
  • Not tolerating or dismissing sexual violence or sexual harassment as “banter”, “part of growing up”, “just having a laugh” or “boys being boys”; and
  • Challenging behaviours (potentially criminal in nature), such as grabbing bottoms, breasts and genitalia, flicking bras and lifting up skirts. Dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them.”

Online safety.

The guidance has included references to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), who emphasise the importance of monitoring online safety. In particular, they highlight sexting as a risk and offer advice for schools and colleges regarding online safety. They also remind schools that children can easily share photos and videos online, particularly through their smartphones. KCSIE links to UKCCIS’s guidance document about online safety in schools and other useful guides that can help schools improve their policies regarding sexting incidents.

Students with SEN and disabilities.

Schools are strongly reminded to ensure that students with SEN and disabilities have a greater availability of mentoring and support, as they could be more vulnerable to safeguarding issues. It also addresses using reasonable force for students with SEN and disabilities. It emphasises that schools should need to be cautious about using it. They should “carefully recognise the additional vulnerability of these groups.”

Contextual safeguarding.

This section closely resembles the one in Working Together. Contextual safeguarding is a new section that expands on child protection procedures and improve their effectiveness. It is “an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families.” (Definition taken from the Contextual Safeguarding Network).

It emphasises the importance of considering every aspect of a child’s life that may impact their wellbeing, rather than limiting it to one area – such as their family life. Therefore, it is crucial for those assessing the needs of children to consider wider environmental factors that may be affecting their safety collectively. For example, they may be at risk of extremism if they are bullied at school and seek a sense of belonging. Issues at home could worsen this, such as if their parents neglect their needs.

Emergency contacts.

The guidance now draws attention to the fact that schools must always have a suitable emergency contact, particularly if there is a safeguarding issue at home. Therefore, it strongly recommends that schools have at least two emergency contacts for every child.

Risk assessments for volunteers.

Schools are now required to carry out a risk assessment for volunteers, in order to determine whether they should then carry out an enhanced DBS check for those not engaged in regular activity.

Teacher writing notes on a clipboard

Their assessment should cover:

  • “The nature of the work with children.
  • What the establishment knows about the volunteer, including formal or informal information offered by staff, parents and other volunteers.
  • Whether the volunteer has other employment or undertakes voluntary activities where references can advise on suitability.
  • Whether the role is eligible for an enhanced DBS check.”

Details of the assessment should be recorded.

Proprietor-led schools.

The guidance now states that sole proprietors must select a suitable designated safeguarding lead, who must be sufficiently independent from the family running the school.

S128 Checks.

Information about s128 checks – which determine whether a person has been prohibited from managing a school – is now much clearer. Historically, the guidance simply stated that the checks apply to people in management positions. However, it now clarifies that this includes governors, trustees, headteachers, members of the senior leadership team, and departmental heads.

Alternate providers.

The guidance now states that, if students need to be placed in an alternative provision, the school must obtain a written statement from the alternate provider. This statement must confirm that the provider has completed all the necessary vetting and barring checks on staff, to ensure the students’ safety.

Annex A.

All staff must read Keeping Children Safe in Education Part 1, and those who work directly with children must also read Annex A. The Annex A section now includes four new key topics: children and the court system, when children are witnesses; children with family members in prison; criminal exploitation of children; and homelessness.

Disqualification by association.

Following government consultation, the Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 has amended the Childcare Act 2006. The changes relate to disqualification by association, which historically could apply to staff, such as those in schools, providing child care. They could be prohibited from working with children if someone in their household made a conviction.

However, this now only applies to domestic premises, not schools. Staff may still be disqualified due to offences they commit, but schools need to carry out suitable DBS checks to determine whether this is the case. Furthermore, the schools’ policy should reflect this and they should take care when recruiting staff to ensure they don’t include reference to the previous disqualification standards in their questions.

It’s also worth noting that this change does not impact settings specifically for early years provision.

GDPR/Data Protection.

Like Working Together, Keeping Children Safe emphasises that GDPR and the Data Protection Act do not affect your ability to collect information and report safeguarding concerns. The guidance states that “fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.”

Teacher writing notes on their safeguarding concerns

It also states that you can find further advice about this topic in the Information Sharing: Advice for Practitioners guidance document. This document also includes the seven golden rules for sharing information.

Key amendments to the guidance as of 2019:

In September 2019, KCSIE received some additions and changes to reflect new requirements and guidelines that education settings should follow. The updates are not as substantial as previous years, but they still require you to update your knowledge and reflect this in your safeguarding policies.

The main changes in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019 include guidance on:

  • Upskirting. KCSIE now includes a reference to upskirting, as it has officially become a criminal offence. Upskirting refers to taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing. It is listed under peer on peer abuse and sexual harassment. All staff must understand their setting’s policy and procedures so they can help to prevent it.
  • Serious and honour-based violence. KCSIE 2019 contains an additional paragraph about serious violence and how to identify risks. It also emphasises that honour-based violence includes FGM and forced marriage and provides advice on what to do if staff have concerns.
  • Safeguarding partners/partnerships. As of September 2019, safeguarding partnerships will have fully replaced local safeguarding children’s boards (LSBCs).
  • Relationships and sex education. In September 2020 the Department for Education is introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary pupils. Schools will be required to teach these subjects, so they must be aware of what the statutory guidance states. KCSIE references this to ensure education settings are aware. You can find a link to guidance for this topic at the following link: Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education in England
  • New Ofsted inspections framework. KCSIE  now includes additional information about changes to Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework. It states that, as of September 2019, Ofsted inspections of early years, schools, and post-16 provision will be carried out under Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework and includes a link: Education inspection framework (EIF).
  • Teaching online safety guidance. KCSIE also now links to the non-statutory guidance document regarding teaching online safety in school, which was recently published by the Department for Education. You can find this document here: Teaching online safety in school.

It’s also worth noting that KCSIE has removed references to the School Inspection Service, as they have closed and so no longer inspect independent schools.

Hopefully, this guide has clarified exactly how these two guidance documents have changed over time and has provided you with an insight into where your policies and procedures may need tweaking. Always keep on top of alterations – it’s crucial to follow them so you can ensure the continued safety of children.

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