Children Act 2004

The United Kingdom's Children Act 2004 establishes sets out children's services and sets up both a Children's Commissioner in England and in Wales. 

The Children Act 2004 also provides the framework for managing electronic records belonging to vulnerable children as well as data sharing protocols and guidance between health, education and social care professionals.

The Children Act 2004 provides the legislative spine on which the reform of children's services is based. It aims to improve and integrate children's services, promote early intervention, provide strong leadership and bring together different professionals in multi-disciplinary teams in order achieve positive outcomes for children and young people and their families. Local authorities are given a lead role in securing the co-operation of partners in setting up children's trust arrangements and the Children Act allows some flexibility in how these are structured and organised.

The Children Act 2004 establishes

  • a basis for better integrated planning, commissioning and delivery of children's services;
  • clearer accountability for councils' children's services, by requiring that a Director of Children's Services is appointed and designating a lead councillor for children's services;
  • a legislative basis for better sharing of information;
  • statutory Local Safeguarding Children Boards to replace non-statutory Area Child Protection Committees; and
  • a Children's Commissioner for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Key measures

  • A Children's Commissioner

As well as those under 18, the term includes those aged 18-20 who have been looked after by an authority from 16 or who have a learning disability. The Commissioners will report to Parliament through the Secretary of State.

  • A new duty on agencies to co-operate to improve the well-being of children and young people

This duty provides for integrated planning and commissioning through local partnerships, but allows local partners to decide how their own partnership will be structured and managed, and how it will be named and identified locally.

  • Children's services authorities (i.e. those local authorities which currently provide social services and are education authorities) must promote co-operation within the authority and with statutory partners.
  • A power to set up a new database with information about children (Section 12)

Information sharing

Parental Controls, Children Act 2004The Secretary of State may introduce regulations requiring children's services authorities to set up local databases of information about children or may make regional or national arrangements. There may also be secondary legislation on matters such as security, access and management of information.

The purpose is to facilitate information sharing where there are concerns about a child's safety or well-being. The Children Act 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of information sharing systems to ensure that practitioners are able to provide children and their families with help and support they need at the earliest opportunity. This links directly to the co-operation duties and to the duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children on local authorities, other bodies and individual service providers.

Enforcement and supervision

  • Department for Education
  • Children's Commissioner


Children Act 2004