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Improving Children’s Advocacy Services in England

The Advocates4U campaign is coordinated by Article 39, and NYAS is part of the campaign strategy group. The campaign was created to influence the government and commissioners of children’s services to make the following improvements to children’s advocacy services in England.

Creating an Active Offer

Advocates4U believes that care-experienced children and young people should be made aware of the advocacy services available to them. Young people should be informed how they can access an advocate if and when they decide they would benefit from advocacy services. 

This information should be provided at the point of key stages in their life, including entering care, being faced with a change in home, or when they need to access mental health services.

 

Revisit National Standards

This campaign believes that to improve children’s advocacy services in England, there must be a review of the  current national standards for advocacy

These regulations were last reviewed in 2002 – that is a decade since any improvement or edits have been made to these national standards. 

These standards need to be revisited to make sure that children and young people receive the highest standard of support from advocates. A review of advocacy standards would also help to ensure improved consistency in children’s advocacy services across England, continuing to empower young people in care. 

Consolidating the Law

Advocates4U is also calling for a consolidation of the law on advocacy entitlements. This would hopefully improve public and professional awareness of the children’s advocacy services available in the UK. 

When professionals who work with care-experienced children are more aware of the intricacies of advocacy, along with the benefits of this service, more vulnerable young people are able to take advantage of these services.

If your organisation is looking to champion children’s advocacy services across the UK, then you can join the campaign today.

Children’s Advocacy Services in the UK: The Facts

Sometimes advocacy can be a difficult term to describe and summarise. At its heart, children’s advocacy allows children and young people to share their wishes and feelings. 

Children’s advocacy services across England should allow children to express how they’re feeling in a safe space with someone who is independent and always on their side. The ultimate aim of these services is to empower children to use their voices whilst upholding their human rights. 

Some of the core things to know about children’s advocacy services across the UK are:

  • Children and young people in care have a right to express their wishes and feelings when a decision about their lives is being made. This right is defined in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and enshrined in the Children Act 1989.
  • Care-experienced children and young people have a right to be supported by an advocate when they need representation or have a complaint to make about their care experiences.

Empowering children and young people helps them to stay safe. In addition, it aids their transition into adulthood.

Moving Forwards

NYAS welcomed the recommendations set out in a  report from the Children’s Commissioner for England in June 2019. This report found that a significant group of children are still being denied access to advocacy, despite having a statutory entitlement to it.

The “Advocacy for Children” report received evidence from the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium. This consortium is co-chaired by NYAS, and the report recognised NYAS for providing valuable research which informed its findings.

NYAS continues to work in partnership with other organisations to revise the national advocacy standards to make sure that they properly reflect current law and policy. It is also critical that these standards identify and address the challenges faced by children and young people and their advocates today. 

The new standards can then be used by the Department for Education as the basis for a full public consultation. Children and young people must be at the heart of this consultation, aligning with the purpose and values of advocacy.

Campaign Progress

On 18th June 2020, the Advocates4U campaign released a progress report on children’s advocacy services in England. 

The report charts the national and local developments made since June 2019 relating to improved access to advocacy. In this report, changes that have been made to ensure children and young people’s access to high-quality independent advocacy services are identified. 

The Advocacy Services for Children and Young People Progress Report (2020) is available to read in its entirety.

#AcrossTheBorder

NYAS also launched the third report in our #AcrossTheBorder research series, comparing advocacy policies and laws across England and Wales. The #AcrossTheBorder research series was developed in 2020 to encourage both the UK and Welsh governments to guarantee consistent access to children’s advocacy services through improved laws, policies and practices. 

This report calls on ministers in England to introduce an ‘active (opt-out) offer’ of advocacy, as exists in Wales. This means that when children enter care, or at other key moments in their care journey, they are automatically connected with an independent advocate. 

This independent advocate then explains what advocacy services are available to the young person, breaks down what they’re entitled to, and offers their services. 

You can read our full #AcrossTheBorder briefing in English and in Welsh.

Accessing Advocacy Support

NYAS advocates are always on the side of the young person.

They are independent and do not work for local councils, children’s services or the NHS.

An advocate will not make decisions for you, offer legal advice, give their personal opinion or tell you what to do. Our advocates listen to what children and young people want, inform them of their rights and empower them to get their voice heard.

If you are currently living in care, a care leaver, or a professional seeking support on behalf of someone and you are looking for help and advice, NYAS is here to help.

You can request our advocacy service by calling our friendly freephone helpline on 0800 808 1001 or emailing  main@nyas.net.

You can explore NYAS’ full range of current campaigns, as well as our previous campaigns, to see the impact our efforts are having on policy and legislation for children and young people in care across England and Wales.

If you want to support our campaigning efforts, or have an experience you want to share with us, feel free to get in touch with our friendly NYAS team.

Still Have Questions?

If you have further questions about this campaign, please get in touch and our policy and research team will be happy to help.

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