The Children Act 1989

Almost all of the Children Act 1989 applies in Wales as well as England. However, the only freely available online version of the Act is in the UK legislation website and this is not completely up to date.

  1. Until April 2016, there are some sections, 22 and 23, about looked-after children in the online version of the Act which are different in Wales and England, but only the law in England is shown in the Act on the UK Legislation website. This table sets out the differences between the law in England and Wales prior to April.
  2. From April 2016, Part III Children Act 1989 no longer applies in Wales. It is replaced by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014)

The Children Act 1989 is divided into Parts: Part 1 covers general principles; Part II covers private law; Part III children in need and looked-after children [but not in Wales]; Part IV care orders; Part V child protection.

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

This Act provides for the assessment of the care and support needs of adults and children, including carers, who may require a service to achieve their wellbeing outcomes. A briefing by Luke Clements on the Act can be downloaded here.

Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016

Young people’s guide here. This Act regulates the quality of the social care workforce and agencies in Wales.

Other Acts that relate to social care in Wales

  • The Adoption and Children Act 2002
    This is the law about adoption of children. There are some differences between sections of this Act in Wales and England.
  • Care Standards Act 2000
    Established regulatory bodies for social care in England and Wales, and provisions for registration and standards in social care work and training. (Most of this Act has been repealed in Wales by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016.)


Provisions for children’s social care in the following five Acts were replaced by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 in April 2016:


  • Equality Act 2010
    Consolidates all anti-discrimination legislation, including Age; Disability; Gender reassignment; Marriage and civil partnership; race; Religion or belief; Sex; and Sexual orientation.
  • Mental Capacity Act 2005
    The law about adults and 16 and 17 year olds who lack the understanding to make decisions. Mental capacity law is explained here.
  • Mental Health Act 1983
    The law about the admission to hospital and treatment for mental disorder. This Act applies to individuals of any age.
  • NHS (Wales) Act 2006
    he Welsh Government’s duties regarding health services.
  • Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005
    Redress for maladministration (the wrong actions) by public authorities.

The Additional Educational Needs and Education Tribunals Act 2018, which changes the law about special education, is due to come into force in September 2019.

Measures passed by The National Assembly For Wales

This Welsh Government website – Law Wales – is designed to explain the areas of law that are now devolved and therefore the responsibility of the Welsh Government. These include health, education, and socal care, but not the court system.