- Adoption Order
- Adult with care and support needs
- Care Quality Commission
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
- Child Death Overview Panel
- Child in need
- Child Protection Conference
- Child Protection Plan
- Child sexual exploitation
- Clinical Commissioning Group
- Core Group
- Domestic abuse
- Early help
- emergency protection order
- Emotional abuse
- Fabricated or induced illness
- Free Schools
- General Medical Council
- Lead social worker
- Looked After Child
- Medical assessment
- Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
- Nursing and Midwifery Council
- Physical abuse
- Pre-birth assessment
- Section 47
- Serious case review
- Sexual abuse
- Significant harm
The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold which justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children. Section 47 of the Act places a duty on local authorities to make enquiries, or cause enquiries to be made, where it has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm.
There are no absolute criteria for establishing significant harm. Whether the harm, or likely harm, suffered by the child is significant is determined by comparing the child’s health or development with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.
‘Harm’ can include the effect of seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of someone else, for example where there are concerns of domestic violence and abuse.
Sometimes, a single traumatic event may constitute significant harm (e.g. a violent assault, suffocation or poisoning). More often, significant harm is a compilation of significant events which interrupt, change or damage the child's physical and psychological development.
When considering the severity of ill-treatment, it can be useful to consider:
- the degree and the extent of physical harm
- the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect
- the extent of premeditation, and
- the presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements.
Some children live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent that it constitutes significant harm.
To understand and establish ‘significant harm’, professionals should consider a range of factors including:
- the family context, including protective factors
- the child’s development within the context of his or her family and wider social and cultural environment
- any special needs, such as a medical condition, communication difficulty or disability that may affect the child’s development and care within the family
- the nature of harm, in terms of ill-treatment or failure to provide adequate care
- the impact on the child’s health and development
- the capacity of the parent or carer to adequately meet the child’s needs.
- Unexpected child death