General Article A brief history of child protection legislation in the UK

Topic Selected: Child Abuse
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The Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act 1889 was the first statute of many to impose criminal penalties to deter mistreatment of children.



Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 enabled NSPCC Inspectors to remove children from abusive or neglectful family homes.



Punishment of Incest Act 1908 – made sexual abuse within families a matter for state jurisdiction rather than intervention by the clergy.



Adoption of Children Act 1926 – provided adoption for the first time as an alternative to guardianship or institutional care in orphanages.



The Children Act 1948 followed the death in 1945 of a 13-year-old boy, Dennis O’Neill, as a consequence of the neglect and beatings of his foster father. Focused on children in the care of the state and living apart from their families. Established a children’s committee and a children’s officer to take responsibility for looked after children in each local authority.




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