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1.4.2 Representation, Advocacy and Children's Rights

Contents

  1. The Purpose of Advocacy
  2. National Standards for the Provision of Children's Advocacy Services (2002)
  3. Guidance about Young People Making a Complaint
  4. Accessibility
  5. Support
  6. Choice
  7. Service
  8. Recording
  9. Accountability


1. The Purpose of Advocacy

"Advocacy safeguards looked after children and young people and protects them from abuse and poor practice."

(Jacqui Smith MP, Minister for Social Care)

Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people. Advocacy is about empowering children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to be decision-makers, and helping them to navigate the system. This document covers advocacy for children and young people (including those leaving care) up to the age of 21.


2. National Standards for the Provision of Children's Advocacy Services (2002)

  1. This section details the standards issued under Section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which requires local authorities with Children's Social Care Services functions to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State for Health. The standards set out the core principles that children and young people can expect from professionals providing advocacy services;
  2. There are ten standards, including the role of children and young people in advocacy, the policy context, equal opportunities, confidentiality, publicity, accessibility, independence, complaints procedures and the management and governance of services;
  3. Standard 1: Advocacy is led by the views and wishes of children and young people;
  4. Standard 2: Advocacy champions the rights and needs of children and young people;
  5. Standard 3: All advocacy services have clear policies to promote equalities issues and monitor services to ensure that no young person is discriminated against due to age, gender race, culture, religion language disability or sexual orientation;
  6. Standard 4: Advocacy is well-publicised, accessible and easy to use;
  7. Standard 5: Advocacy gives help and advice quickly when they are requested;
  8. Standard 6: Advocacy works exclusively for children and young people;
  9. Standard 7: The advocacy service operates to a high level of confidentiality and ensures that children, young people and other agencies are aware of its confidentiality policies;
  10. Standard 8: Advocacy listens to the views and ideas of children and young people in order to improve the service provided;
  11. Standard 9: The advocacy service has an effective and easy to use complaints procedure;
  12. Standard 10: Advocacy is well managed and gives value for money.


3. Guidance about Young People Making a Complaint

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 amends the Children Act 1989 to place a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for the provision of advocacy for children or young people who want to make a complaint under the Children Act procedures. This new provision applies to children in care and care leavers. The regulations and guidance to implement this provision came into effect in April 2004. Some key guidance is highlighted below. The full documents can be located at:

New duties in relation to advocacy for children and young people making or thinking about making complaints under the children Act 1989 and Adoption and Children Act 2002. The emphasis is on early detection and early resolution so concerns and problems are put right quickly and efficiently. Complaints procedures should be devised and operated in the wider context of encouraging children to speak out and encouraging Decision Makers to hear their views.

  • Independent advocacy should be available quickly when requested;
  • When local authorities receive complaints forms children or young people they must provide them with information about advocacy services and offer help with obtaining an Advocate;
  • The local authority must inform the child or young person about their rights to advocacy, ask the child if advocacy is wanted, and offer help and assistance with how to find advocacy services;
  • The young person should be asked if it is important for them to have an advocate of the same gender, race, disability or sexual orientation. The Local Authority need to take these matters into consideration and whenever possible meet the preference of the young person;
  • The local authority should make initial contact with the advocate if the child requests it;
  • The local authority should make sure that those children out of Authority have access to advocacy;
  • The young person should be able to choose an advocate; this could be a relative, friend or teacher. There may be reasons why the chosen person should not agree (conflict of interest). Children and young people should be helped to understand the choices open to them by the complaints officer;
  • The young person should be given the opportunity to meet the advocate before the appointment is confirmed;
  • Individuals should be advised about the role of the advocate. The authority should consider providing information about the national standards;
  • Publicity should be age appropriate;
  • Information should be given to all young people when assessed as in need and again when coming into care. The Independent Reviewing Officer should ensure that the child is aware of this;
  • Complaints materials should include information about advocacy and children's rights;
  • The role of the complaints officer includes consulting with children when they express the intention to make a complaint to help them to understand the options available and how the procedure works;
  • The complaints officer should provide information and advice to children and young people about advocacy services and support in accessing these services;
  • The complaints officer should work with the child or young person and advocates concerning the issues of the complaint and provide information about options for resolution both within the complaints procedure or alternative routes of remedy and redress;
  • Their role also includes a duty to:
  • Keep a written or electronic record of complaints made, the procedure followed and the outcome;
  • Arrange for the investigation;
  • Appoint an independent person;
  • Monitor the progress of the complaint;
  • Keep the child making the complaint and key people informed at all stages;
  • Ensure timescales are adhered to; and
  • Make observations and suggestions to the local authority on any action to take following an investigation;
  • Local authorities need to consider how best to raise children's knowledge (especially those in foster care) of complaints procedures and how to facilitate regular contact with advocates;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer has a role in resolving problems by negotiation with the local authority and has as a last resort the power to refer children's cases to the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service to take the case to Court;
  • There should be close working with Independent Reviewing Officers and complaints officers. Channels of communication should be agreed in trying to resolve an issue or complaint.


4. Accessibility

  • Age appropriate publicity about the advocacy service is available and widely distributed;
  • This publicity has details of how to contact an independent advocacy service;
  • New publicity is being developed to include details of in-house advocacy provision alongside independent advocacy provision;
  • The service has two free phone numbers in operation;
  • A text number will be available;
  • The service can be accessed electronically;
  • Provisions for those whose first language is not English and for those with communication difficulties will be made;
  • Meetings should take place in a private confidential place;
  • Advocates will visit young people who live out of Authority to offer the service to them.


5. Support

The child or young person can expect independent and confidential access to advice, support, information and representation through the advocacy service.

They can expect:

  • That their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times;
  • A written report of their concerns that the advocate will help them to negotiate;
  • Information about their rights and the complaints process and the advocacy service and its standards;
  • To receive information about how to complain about the advocacy service.

They can expect the advocate to:

  • Meet with them confidentially and explore the options that are available to them;
  • Represent them professionally at meetings;
  • Keep to appointments that have been arranged or give advanced notice of any changes;
  • Assist with letter writing and form filling where appropriate and required;
  • Keep in regular professional contact with (where appropriate and required to reach a resolution); complaints officers, independent persons, investigating officer, Independent Reviewing Officer, Social Worker, Parents, Carers and any significant people or specialists involved in the child's complaint.


6. Choice

Where possible and appropriate the child will be matched with the advocate of their choice. This service has in-house and independent elements to offer the child increased choice.

If the child would like the in-house advocate to represent them (e.g. because they have a previously established relationship thorough consultation work) this can be arranged.

If the young person would prefer to have an independent advocate this is provided by an external independent organisation (e.g. Voice for the Child in Care).

The young person is asked if it is important for them to have an advocate of the same gender, race, disability or sexual orientation and the Local Authority will take these matters into consideration and whenever possible meet the preference of the young person.

The child or young person are informed of their rights and the procedures and processes involved in making a complaint and receiving advocacy so that they can be supported to make informed choices.


7. Service

  • The child or young person can refer themselves to the service;
  • The service will receive a referral from a third party but will seek the child's consent and will not pursue without this;
  • Once the child has given their permission they will be responded to and supplied with age and ability appropriate information about the complaints process and the national standards for advocacy;
  • After initial contact (referral) a response should be received by the young person within two working days;
  • Referrals considered high risk will be given priority;
  • The child will be offered the opportunity to choose an advocate and to meet this advocate before appointment is confirmed;
  • The child can expect to be involved in any decision that the advocacy service intend to make on their behalf;
  • The young person can expect support from the advocate until the complaint or issue is resolved or if circumstances result in it being deemed insoluble;
  • The advocate will work on an issue basis a new referral will need to be made for unrelated issues;
  • Feedback from the child about the service will be sought.


8. Recording

  • Electronic and paper files will be kept for each case;
  • Young people can have access to these records;
  • The records will be stored confidentially in a locked cabinet;
  • Electronic record will be protected;
  • Records will be kept and shared in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.


9. Accountability

The service will provide information about how to complain about the service to individuals accessing it. They can access the Children's Services complaints procedure and be assisted in this.

End