The protection and well-being of children is a matter devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. Family law and proceedings are exceptions from the Assembly’s competence, apart from:
(a) welfare advice to courts, representation and provision of information, advice and other support to children ordinarily resident in Wales and their families, and
(b) Welsh Family Proceedings Officers (see Government of Wales Act 2006 Schedule 7 paragraph 15).
The primary statutory role of safeguarding the welfare of children in Wales lies with local authorities.
This role involves a wide range of duties including:
(a) assessing and meeting the care and support needs of children (Parts 3 and 4 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014) (See “Care and support for adults and children - assessing and meeting the care and support needs of adults, carers and children")
(b) the provision of accommodation for children on a voluntary basis where either no person has parental responsibility for them, they are lost or abandoned or the person who has been caring for them is prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care- section 76 of the 2014 Act. (See “Responsibilities in respect of children - looked after children")
(c) duties in relation to the placement of children looked after by a local authority and the review of those placements - Part 6 of the 2014 Act (see “Responsibilities in respect of children - looked after children")
(d) duties in respect of private fostering arrangements – section 67 of the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) (Wales) Regulations 2006//940
(e) visiting looked after and former looked after children (section 98 of the 2014 Act (see “Responsibilities in respect of children - looked after children")
(f) provision for care leavers - Part 6 of the 2014 Act (sections 105 to 115) (see “Responsibilities in respect of children - leaving care and services for care leavers")
(g) Parts 4 and 5 of the Children Act 1989 set out the circumstances in which a local authority must investigate when it suspects that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. Parts 4 and 5 then set out the steps which a local authority can take to intervene by making an application to a Family Court and the criteria used by courts in determining such applications – for example, for emergency protection orders, care orders or supervision orders.
Independent Reviewing Officers monitor the performance by the local authority of their functions in relation to a child’s case – section 25A of the Children Act 1989 and the Review of Children's Cases (Wales) Regulations 2007/ 307.
Local authorities in Wales are also under a duty to make arrangements to promote co-operation with a range of relevant partners ( such as the local police body, local health board and NHS Trust) in relation to protection of children from harm and neglect and a range of other well-being related matters - section 25 of the Children Act 2004 (CA 2004). (See “General and strategic duties - Co-operation")
Section 28 of CA 2004 imposes a duty on local authorities and other bodies such as the local police body, local health boards, NHS Trusts, probation boards and youth offending teams to ensure that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Under Part 7 of the 2014 Act local authorities must establish Safeguarding Children Boards comprised of representatives from local authorities, the local police body, local health board, NHS Trust, probation board, youth offending team and others. (See “Safeguarding - Safeguarding Boards")
Part 4 of CA 2004 gives the Welsh Ministers’ functions in respect of the exercise of Cafcass functions in Wales in relation to family proceedings. These functions are carried out by CAFCASS Cymru – the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service in Wales and include the provision of Welsh Family Proceedings Officers to assist the court in private and public law family proceedings, in respect of which the welfare of children ordinarily resident in Wales is in question.
In family proceedings with an international element, Council Regulation 2001/2003 (Brussels II revised) may be relevant.
Where there are cross – border issues relating to safeguarding a child’s welfare, the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (‘the 1996 Convention) is likely to come into play. This was ratified by the UK on 1st November 2012. It contains a range of co-operation provisions to cover the handling of cross – border cases where a child’s welfare is in issue. The Welsh Ministers are the Central Authority for the 1996 Convention pursuant to the Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (International Obligations) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Regulations 2010 (2010/1898). The 1996 Convention may come into play alongside Council Regulation 2201/2003 (Brussels II revised) and / or Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980.