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What does significant harm mean?

There is no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Under s31 (10) of the Children Act 2004, the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant relates specifically to the child’s health and development. Their health or development should be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child and the parenting that we would reasonably expect them to receive from their parent/carer.

To understand and identify significant harm, it is necessary to consider:

  • The nature of harm, in terms of mistreatment or failure to provide adequate care,
  • The impact on the child’s health and development,
  • The child’s development within the context of their family and wider environment,
  • Any special needs, such as a medical condition, communication impairment or disability, that may affect the child’s development and care within the family,
  • The capacity of parents to meet adequately the child’s needs, and
  • The wider environmental family context.(Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013)