Child Protection Services in the UK

little boy stacking blocks in a nursery

Child protection services in the UK strive to shield children who may come under harm, such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect.

Statutory safeguarding partners – local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and the police – collaborate to guarantee all children are secure. They can also assist you in reporting any concerns you have about a child’s safety.

Early Years and Childcare Settings

In the UK, there are various early years and childcare settings such as pre-school nurseries and creches, childminders, out-of-school clubs and private nannies. All are regulated and inspected by social workers within Health & Social Care Trusts.

The 1989 Children Act established the basic regulations for registration and regulation of all ECEC settings, drawing from a groundbreaking government-funded longitudinal study, the London Day Care Project. This showed that quality ECEC provision is directly linked to children’s developmental outcomes.

Recent decades have seen a major revolution in the early years services sector. This was spurred by research evidence and social and political factors. Concurrent with these changes has been an initiative to enhance quality assurance within early education and childcare services.


As the UK’s leading children’s charity, NSPCC strives to protect children from cruelty. Your support enables them to provide free services that prevent child abuse and provide comfort to those who have experienced it.

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there are statutory safeguarding processes in place to protect children from adults who could harm them. The Child Protection Act 2004 in England, Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 require those working or volunteering with children to undergo vetting.

In Wales, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 established regional safeguarding children boards to coordinate local safeguarding policy and procedures. Furthermore, these boards have a duty to review and report serious child protection cases to police for investigation.

The Police

The police work hand-in-hand with communities they serve, upholding law and order, protecting members of the public and their property, decreasing crime rates, investigating crimes and bringing offenders to justice.

Police officers have the legal authority to remove a child from their home or place of accommodation if they believe the child is suffering or at risk of serious harm. However, this power should only be exercised when absolutely necessary and always in collaboration with local children’s services.

All allegations of abuse are thoroughly yet sensitively investigated, with the needs of children always put first. Specialised teams trained in child abuse investigations are stationed throughout all area commands.

Social Services

In the UK, there is a comprehensive child protection system in place where local authorities have duties and responsibilities for those in need. They can offer advice, services, accommodation and care to those who become uncared-for; alternatively they have the authority to initiate proceedings to remove them from their parents’ care if there is evidence of significant harm such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.

Social workers are responsible for investigating any allegations of child abuse, endangerment or neglect. To do this they consult family members and professionals who know the child well in order to take action if deemed necessary.

Every year in England, social services receive nearly 600,000 referrals from people concerned about a child’s safety and welfare. These could include family members and friends who may have witnessed something that causes them concern for the child’s wellbeing.