We believe childhood should be about playing, learning, thriving. Being healthy, loved, valued and protected. Being able to grow as a person, gain responsibility and prepare to live well as an adult. This goes for every child no matter what their background or circumstances. Children and young people’s human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights offer a framework that should provide a child or young person not only with the ability to develop through the life stages of childhood, adolescence and early adulthood but have a childhood that sets them up for life. We’re here to make sure that children and young people understand their rights, can express their wishes and feelings and that their right to be heard can be exercised and be respected.

What We Do

Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people and ensuring their views and wishes are heard and acted upon by decision-makers. Everyday we work with children and young people from a range of lived experiences including:

  • survivors of abuse;
  • those living with special educational needs or disabilities;
  • those living as young carers;
  • those within the criminal justice system, having committed a serious offence;
  • those seeking asylum in the UK, having fled persecution in their own country, with their families or alone.

Often, the children and young people we work with have experienced or are living with more than one of the above.

Our work with children and young people includes:

  • Providing advocacy to support children in need and looked after children when decisions are made about their lives
  • Providing advocacy for children and young people making or intending to make a complaint under the Children Act 1989 (if they are a child in need, looked after child or care leaver)
  • Providing advocacy to children and young people under the Care Act 2014 when they are either being assessed for care and support needs they may have after they turn 18 or if they provide or intend to provide care for an adult
  • Providing Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) to children and young people who become ‘qualifying patients’ under the Mental Health Act 1983
  • Providing advocacy to children and young people making or intending to make a complaint about NHS treatment they have received
  • Providing Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) to young people over the age of 16 who lack mental capacity to make their own decision about serious medical treatment or changes in their accommodation and have no family or friends to support or represent them
  • Acting as ‘Litigation Friend’ in order to make decisions about a court case for a child or young person (including in cases of transfer of proceedings from a court having jurisdiction under the Children Act 1989 to the Court of Protection)
  • Providing training on children’s rights in regard to the Children Act 1989 and related legislation; working with children and young people in need, looked after children and young people transitioning into adulthood, including care leavers; rights of children and young people with disabilities; children and young people’s mental health; rights of young carers; rights of children and young people affected by asylum and immigration issues and the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act in relation to children and young people.

Children and Young People’s Advocacy Services

Advocacy services for children and young people provide independent and confidential information, advice, advocacy, representation and support. It is important that advocacy services are provided by independent organisations – like My Rights – that are managed and work separately from the organisations that have statutory responsibility for looked after children or those in need or for services provided to children and young people such as healthcare. This ensures that advocacy services do not have any ‘conflicts of interest’ in representing children and young people and that children and young people can be confident that what they say to an advocate is protected by a high level of confidentiality.

My Rights provides high quality advocacy services to children and young people. We do this by meeting and exceeding the national standards for children’s advocacy services set out by the government (see below). Specifically we do this by:

  • Always working for the child or young people and no one else;
  • Always valuing and respecting the child or young person as individuals and by challenging all
    types of unlawful discrimination;
  • Always working to make sure that children and young people can understand what is happening to them, can make their views known and, where possible, exercise choice
    when decisions about them are being made.
  • Always helping children and young people to raise issues and concerns about things they
    are unhappy about. This includes making informal and formal complaints under the Children Act 1989.
Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services

To provide guidance on the quality of children’s advocacy services in England and Wales, the Department of Health released ‘National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services’ in 2002. The standards were 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. 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.

The 10 Standards

  • Standard 1: Advocacy is led by the views and wishes of children and young people;

  • Standard 2: Advocacy champions the rights and needs of children and young people;

  • 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;

  • Standard 4: Advocacy is well-publicised, accessible and easy to use;

  • Standard 5: Advocacy gives help and advice quickly when they are requested;

  • Standard 6: Advocacy works exclusively for children and young people;

  • 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;

  • Standard 8: Advocacy listens to the views and ideas of children and young people in order to improve the service provided;

  • Standard 9: The advocacy service has an effective and easy to use complaints procedure;

  • Standard 10: Advocacy is well managed and gives value for money.

the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) contains 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life from the inherent right to life of every child (Article 6), to the right to freedom of expression (Article 13), to the right to rest and leisure and to engage in play and recreational activities (Article 31).

While the Convention holds that all the rights contained within it are linked and no right is more important than another, four articles in the convention have particular weight in understanding and interpreting the Convention and are referred to as “general principles” that play a fundamental role in realising all the rights in the Convention.

The 'General Principles' of the UNCRC

  1. Principle of Non-Discrimination – that the rights contained in the Convention will be respected for every child irrespective of their or their parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status (Article 2).

  2. Principle of the Best Interests of the Child – that states will ensure a child has the protection and care necessary for his or her well-being and all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, will make the best interests of the child a ‘primary consideration’ (Article 3).

  3. Principle of the Right to Life, Survival and Development – that every child has the inherent right to life and states will do everything they can to ensure the survival and development of the child (Article 6).

  4. Principle of the Right to be Heard – that a child who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting them (particularly in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting them) and that the views of the child should be given ‘due weight’ (Article 12).

At My Rights, we take these principles as the foundation of the advocacy work we undertake with and on behalf of children and young people.

Read more about our advocacy services for children and young people

Our Work with Children in Need and Looked After Children

Section 26A of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on every Local Authority to make arrangements for assistance, including representation, to be provided to children and young people in relation to the support for children and families and the care, supervision and protection of children by Local Authorities in England and Wales. This assistance is provided by advocacy services like those provided by My Rights.

Section 26 of the Act places a duty on every Local Authority to have a procedure for considering any representations (including any complaint) made to them by a child who is being looked after by them or who is not being looked after by them but is in need. 

Children in Need

The safeguarding and promotion of the welfare of a child or young person, including their physical and mental health, education and care becomes the duty of a local authority if a child is considered to be ‘in need’. Under Section 17 Children Act 1989, a child is considered in need if:

  • they are unlikely to achieve or maintain or have the opportunity to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without provision of services by the Local Authority;

  • their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of these services; or

  • they have a disability (including if they are blind, deaf, have a speech disorder, experience mental illness, have an intellectual disability or a permanent illness, injury or congenital disorder)

A representative of a Local Authority (normally a social worker) will undertake an assessment and the Local Authority will then use the outcome of this assessment to determine how to safeguard and promote the child or young person’s welfare. This can be through provision of a range and different level of services appropriate to the child or young person’s needs. It does not mean that a child is removed from their family. The local authority also has the duty to promote the child or young person to be brought up by their family, so far as this duty is consistent with the primary duty of safeguarding and promoting the child or young person’s welfare. The local authority may provide accommodation to the family without the child or young person being considered as ‘looked after’ by the local authority.

My Rights can support and represent a child in need during the assessment process, in order to ensure that the child understands the process, is involved appropriately, and is able to make their wishes and feelings known to the Local Authority in regard to the outcome of the assessment. Advocates will try to support the child to represent their own views but may also make representations on the child’s behalf verbally or in writing. Our advocates can also support a complaint that the child may wish to make about the assessment process.

Looked After Children

A child in need becomes a ‘looked after child’ when they are accommodated under section 20 Children Act 1989 or made the subject of a Care Order under section 31 Children Act 1989. Under section 20, a Local Authority may provide accommodation for any child within their area, even where those with parental responsibility are able to provide them with accommodation, if the Local Authority considers that to do so would safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. The Local Authority may also provide accommodation for anyone aged 16-21 in a ‘community home’ if they consider that to do so would safeguard or promote their welfare. A young person 16 or 17 years old can leave accommodation without parental consent. 

A child or young person may be accommodated under section 20 if:

  • there is no person who has Parental Responsibility for them;
  • they are lost or abandoned;
  • the person who has been caring for them is prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care;
  • they are over 16 and the Local Authority considers their welfare likely to be seriously prejudiced without accommodation; or
  • those with Parental Responsibility provide consent for them to be accommodated.

The same section gives those with Parental Responsibility the right to object to the Local Authority providing a child or young person with accommodation under section 20 if they are able and willing to provide accommodation for them or to remove a child or young person from accommodation provided by or on behalf of the Local Authority at any time. 

Before providing accommodation under section 20, a local authority should, as far as it is practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare, ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of accommodation and give due consideration (with regard to their age and level of understanding) to these wishes and feelings.

My Rights can support and represent a looked after child at any time decisions are being made about their lives, particularly at key reviews points (such as a Looked After Child or ‘LAC’ Review). Again, this is in order to ensure that the child understands the process, is involved appropriately, and is able to make their wishes and feelings known to the Local Authority or others in regard to the decision/s being made. Advocates will try to support the child to represent their own views but may also make representations on the child’s behalf verbally or in writing. Our advocates can also support a complaint that the child may wish to make about the decision-making or review process.

Section 26 of the Children Act 1989 with the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006 and The Representations Procedure (Children) (Wales) Regulations 2005) also provide that representations (including complaints) can be made in relation to:

  • care and supervision orders;
  • the effect of a care order;
  • parental contact with a child in care;
  • child assessment orders; and
  • orders for emergency protection of children.
Care Orders

A care order under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 is normally made by a Local Authority (although the NSPCC can also bring proceedings, however this is very rare) to a court, in respect of a child aged 17 or under (unless they are 16 and married) who the Local Authority believes are suffering or are likely to suffer significant harm and:

  • the harm is attributable to the care being given to the child not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him, or

  • that the child is beyond parental control.

Once a local authority has made an application for a care order, the court can make a series of interim orders, which gives the Local Authority parental responsibility and the power to remove the child from home. Further investigations and assessments are carried out before any final orders are made by the court. While a care order is in force, the Local Authority has:

  • parental responsibility for the child;

  • the power to determine the extent to which a parent or guardian of the child may meet their parental responsibility for the child or young person, and

  • make decisions as to where the child will live and with whom, and how the child will have contact with named people.

Care orders continue until the child is 18 years old, unless discharged earlier. When deciding whether to make a care order the court is required to consider the ‘permanence provision’ of the child or young person’s care plan which sets out the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child including whether they will live with any parent or any other member or friend of the family, be adopted or placed in another form of long-term care. Section 1 of the Children Act places the duty on a court deciding a question about the upbringing of a child, that their welfare should be the paramount consideration.

Section 26 of the Children Act 1989 provides that every Local Authority must have a procedure for considering any representations (including any complaint) made to them by any child who is being looked after by them or who is not being looked after by them but is in need;

My Rights can support and represent a child in need in relation to care orders, where a child wishes to make representations in relation to that care order.

Children and Young People with Disabilities

Children and young people with disabilities often require additional support and representation to ensure their voices are heard and their rights upheld. Children and young people with disabilities should expect the rights and protections recognised by both the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

At My Rights, we are committed to ensuring that children and young people living with a physical disability, intellectual disability or disability due to a mental health condition are supported and represented to expect and enjoy as much as possible the same rights and freedoms as non-disabled children and young people and to continue to do so into adulthood.  We strive to give children and young people a voice and to particularly advocate for the involvement and participation of children and young people with disabilities and for their autonomy as they reach adulthood.

take a look at more about our services for children and young people by selecting ‘Children and Young People’s Advocacy’ under ‘services’ in the main menu.