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Evidence, Practice and Procedure: Working together - hearing and safe-guarding children

Date:4 APR 2013
Solicitor Advocate

David Burrows - Practice of Family Law: Evidence and Procedure

David Burrows

Working Together - now Working Together to Safeguard Children - has a long history, both as a document and as an imperative for protection of children. It runs back till the aftermath of the 1987 Cleveland Report which, with Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986] 1 AC 112, [1986] 1 FLR 224, were all part of the impetus which lead to Children Act 1989. It was re-published in March 2013 and the new version comes into operation on 15 April 2013.

Anyone concerned in any way in dealing with children in a professional capacity should be familiar with it. Of the readers of this note, those concerned with Working Together as part of their practice will include mediators who see children, lawyers on the children panel, and other lawyers who advise or otherwise see children - judges perhaps. It applies to all those who ‘are engaged in activities in relation to children' (s 10(1)(c) below) in a local authority's area.

Chapter 2 of Working Together requires that each person, to whom it applies, must be fully aware of the terms of its terms, of its significance and of their duties to their own local authority and the children with whom they may be in contact.  Indeed Chapter 2 emphasises that Working Together should be applied by local authority chief executives, directors of children's services and senior managers within organisations who commission and provide services for children and families, including social workers and professionals from health services, adult services, the police, academy trusts, education and the voluntary and community sector who have contact with children and families.

The modern statutory derivation of Working Together is Children Act 2004. Section 10 provides as follows (italics added):

10 Co-operation to improve well-being

(1) Each local authority in England must make arrangements to promote co-operation between - (a)the authority ... and (c) such other persons or bodies as the authority consider appropriate, being persons or bodies of any nature who exercise functions or are engaged in activities in relation to children in the authority's area.

(2) The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority's area so far as relating to -

(a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;

(b) protection from harm and neglect;

(c) education, training and recreation;

(d) the contribution made by them to society;

(e) social and economic well-being.

(3) In making arrangements under this section a local authority in England must have regard to the importance of parents and other persons caring for children in improving the well-being of children...

Lawyers and mediators, as referred to above, are engaged in 'activities in relation to children' (a term which is not defined in the Act, and which therefore must be given its ordinary meaning). If that is right, then they come within the terms of Working Together. Children Act 2004, s 16(2) picks up the formalities and provides as follows:

(2) A local authority in England and each of their Board partners must, in exercising their functions relating to a Local Safeguarding Children Board, have regard to any guidance given to them for the purpose by the Secretary of State.

That 'guidance' has now been published by the Secretary of State in the form of Working Together and local authorities must have regard to it in their dealings with those who engage in 'activities in relation to children'.

David Burrows is author of Practice of Family Law: Evidence and Procedure (Jordans, 2012).  

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.