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25th anniversary of implementation of Children Act 1989

As all family lawyers will know, 14th October 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of the substantive implementation of the Children Act 1989 heralded by the then Lord Chancellor as the 'most comprehensive and far reaching reform of child law which has come before Parliament in living memory', bringing together public law and private within a single statutory framework.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, Lord Justice of Appeal and co-author of Hershman and McFarlane: Children Law and Practice (Bloomsbury Professional) which shares its publication date with commencement of the 1989 Act, noted in a speech in 2014:

"[I]t is refreshing to note that, on some occasions, the right thing happens at the right time for the right reasons. My choice of the word "happen" is misplaced. If ever proof were needed of the old adage that "time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted" such proof is to be found in the genesis of the Children Act 1989. Over the course of years in the 1980's two separate 'drains to roof' reviews of public child protection law and, separately, the private law relating to children, had been undertaken and completed. Despite each commanding widespread support, they sat gathering dust in the "pending" tray until a haphazard, unlooked for, political moment might arise and justify Parliamentary time being afforded to the necessary statutory reform. …

"The proposed reforms of public law and private law were masterfully grafted into one unified statute and the Children Act 1989 became law."

The Association of Lawyers for Children (the ALC) has noted the anniversary, stating:

"The introductory text to the Children Act 1989 states that this is 'An Act to reform the law relating to children' – a modest understatement.

"The Act, crucially, established children's welfare as paramount in making decisions about a child's upbringing. That standard has stood the test of time, and remains crucial at a time child protection services face privatisation, and when two United Nations Committees have examined the record of the UK in implementing its international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – and found that we are failing in meeting those obligations."