King John of England is forced to sign the Magna Carta by members of the English aristocracy. Although intended for the nobility, the document forced the king to respect certain rights of his subjects and imposed legal limits on his power.
The Bill of Rights is adopted in England. It establishes the rights of the representatives of the people (the “House of Commons”) to limit the king’s actions and even remove him from power if he should act against their interests. The Bill sets guarantees against unjust taxation and cruel and unusual punishment and for the right to religious toleration.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is adopted during the early stage of the French Revolution. This document proclaims the end of the monarchy and the rights of all citizens to liberty, property, security, and the resistance to oppression.
Containing the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, the US Bill of Rights extends citizens’ rights to include freedom of speech, of the press, and to a fair trial, among others.
The first section of the Geneva Conventions, protecting the rights of sick and wounded soldiers, is adopted by European powers, This agreement would eventually be expanded to include the rights of prisoners and of all war victims.
Following campaigning by the National Education League the Elementary Education Act 1880 made schooling compulsory until the age of ten and also established attendance officers to enforce attendance, so that parents who objected to compulsory education, arguing they needed children to earn a wage, could be fined for keeping their children out of school. School leaving age was raised with successive Acts from ten to age fourteen in 1918.
The first act of parliament for the prevention of cruelty to children, commonly known as the “children’s charter” was passed. This enabled the state to intervene, for the first time, in relations between parents and children. Police could arrest anyone found ill-treating a child, and enter a home if a child was thought to be in danger. The act included guidelines on the employment of children and outlawed begging.
The act was amended and extended. It allowed children to give evidence in court, mental cruelty was recognised and it became an offence to deny a sick child medical attention.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act gave the NSPCC a statutory right to intervene in child protection cases.
The Children’s Act 1908 established juvenile courts and introduced the registration of foster parents. The Punishment of Incest Act made sexual abuse within families a matter for state jurisdiction rather than intervention by the clergy.
Maternity and Child Welfare Act The War prompted the government to direct funds towards infant welfare centres, and the Act encouraged local authorities to continue this work by introducing the principle of free ante-natal care and free medical care of under-fives. Most of the work was undertaken by volunteers, who were able to claim support for the resources they used. These measures taken together contributed to an astonishing decline in infant mortality in the first three decades of the 20th century.
Save the children
The Children and Young Persons Act 1932 broadened the powers of juvenile courts and introduced supervision orders for children at risk. The following year, a further act brought together all existing child protection law into a single piece of legislation.
United Nations General Assembly The first major step on behalf of children taken by the United Nations, was UNICEF’s creation in 194657 co-founded by Maurice Pate and Ludwik Rajchman to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries devastated by World War II.58 Two years later, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly.
The Children Act 1948 established a children’s committee and a children’s officer in each local authority. It followed the creation of the parliamentary care of children committee in 1945 following the death of 13-year-old Dennis O’Neill at the hands of his foster parents.
United Nations General Assembly An expanded version of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child,66 covering children’s rights, maternal protection, health, adequate food, shelter and education, was adopted by the General Assembly in 1959 as a milestone in the commitment of world governments to focus on the needs of children — an issue once considered peripheral to development, but serving as a moral, rather than legally binding framework.
Following publication of the Kilbrandon report in 1964,69 the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 set up the Scottish Children’s Hearings system and revolutionised juvenile justice in Scotland by removing children in trouble from the criminal courts.70 The institutional framework for supporting children and families established on the basis of the key recommendations of the report has been largely unchanged since it was introduced in 1971. Changes from the latest review, currently under way in 2008, are planned for implementation from 2010.
The Children Act 1972 set the minimum school leaving age at 16. After the 1972 Act schools were provided with temporary buildings to house their new final year, known as ROSLA (Raising School Leaving Age) buildings and were delivered to schools as self-assembly packs. Although not designed for long-term use, many schools continued using them.
Sex Discrimination Act 1976
The UN Convention on Children’s Rights was adopted into international law.
The Children Act 1989 was intended as the main piece of legislation setting out the legal framework for child protection procedures e.g. enquiries and conferences and introduced the notion of parental responsibility. Provisions apply to all children under 18. It was very wide-ranging and covered all paid childcarers outside the parental home for under-8’s, adoption and fostering, and aspects of family law including divorce. Although the Act aimed to enshrine consistency with the UNCRC approach that ‘the best interests of the child are pre-eminent’, UN monitoring committee reports issued in 1995 and 2002 noted that the principle of primary consideration for the best interests of the child was not consistently reflected in legislation and policies affecting children.
UK ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with a number of reservations.89 UNCRC defines a child as under 18 years old, unless an earlier age of majority is recognised by a country’s law.
Disability Discrimination act
The Human Rights Act 1998 received Royal Assent, mostly coming into force in 2002.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act received Royal Assent, paving the way for whistleblowers of child abuse and other illegal corporate activities to receive support and protection via the industrial tribunal system.9293 Employees such as those in the army, are excluded.
Protection of Children Act 1999 required a list to be kept of persons considered unsuitable to work with children.