Some children are in need because they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of ‘significant harm’ as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children, and gives local authorities a duty to make enquiries to decide whether they should act to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child who is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm.
There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm and this is not for the DARE Officer to decide. Consideration of a variety of factors will be made by the Local Authority. This may involve a multitude of and/or longer-term issues or a single traumatic event, each of which has been associated with having severe impacts upon child welfare or development. More often, significant harm is a compilation of significant events, both acute and long-standing, which interrupt, change or damage the child’s physical and psychological development. Some children live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. A thorough assessment of the child’s circumstances will determine any risk and inform planning and protection for that child, both immediately and in the longer term. Information/observation provided by a DARE Officer may well form a part of such an assessment.