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The Children Act 1989 defines harm as the ‘ill-treatment’ of a child or the ‘impairment’ of the child’s health or development. This includes harm caused by seeing or hearing someone else being ill-treated (e.g. a child witnessing domestic abuse).

Development means a child’s ‘physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development’. And ‘health’ means a child’s ‘physical or mental health’.

Harm can be caused by:

  • A parent or carer’s actions
  • A parent or carer’s failure to prevent harm.

The definition of harm is set out in Section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989.

For more information see:

Significant harm

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