This paper aims to critically examine the idea that devolution in Wales, compared with England, brings a decisive shift in the delivery of children's services and, by extension, challenges our assumption that the Children Act 1989 remains as a primary unifying force in child welfare legislation.
The paper primarily addresses those matters pertaining to public law under parts III‐V of the Act that give force to core functions within the personal social services in Wales and England. It looks at the Act from the viewpoint of devolution in Wales.
The evolution of services, new policy frameworks and changes to the UK political architecture since the implementation of the Act have transformed the delivery of children's services. The 1989 Act remains prominent but such changes have brought a very different shape and purpose to the occupational world in which the Act was first launched in Wales and England.
The paper shows that it is much less clear if the 1989 Act can be “read off” today – as perhaps it could when it was first enacted – as an inclusive encoding of what local authorities and their partners should and must do for children.
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