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This guide looks at the various ages for children that have some relevance to safeguarding.


The legal definition of a child in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. On reaching 18 a person legally becomes an adult. In Scotland the principle is generally the same. However, in some legal proceedings a child can be defined as a person under 16 years of age. Treating a person who is under 18 years as a child, is in keeping with Article 1 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child which states that “a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.

Whilst in the eyes of the law the definition of a child is clear, there are many age-related laws, regulations and restrictions across the UK which may affect and impact on child safeguarding. Below we take a look at a number of areas and ages which have some relevance to safeguarding, even those with rather tenuous links.

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