Our advocacy work with children and young people focuses on: children and young people affected by the Children Act 1989 and related legislation, namely those considered ‘in need’ or who are ‘looked after’ by a local authority or a young person leaving care; as well as other forms of statutory advocacy that a child or young person may be entitled to, such as Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) or Independent Advocacy under the Care Act 2014. We understand the importance of ensuring that a child’s voice is heard whenever important life decisions are being made on their behalf or if they are unhappy about a public service .

Rights of Children and Young People

How we can help

We are committed to promoting and securing the rights of children and young people and believe we have an important role to play in promoting the rights of children and young people generally. Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people and empowering them to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. It is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to decision-makers, and helping them to navigate the system. The following information outlines the advocacy help we provide to children and young people. In addition to this, we also provide the following statutory advocacy services to children and young people:

  • Independent Mental Health Advocacy
  • Independent Advocacy Under the Care Act 2014
  • Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (for young people aged 16 and over)
  • NHS Complaints Advocacy

For information on these services, please go to the relevant pages via the links above or see each service under the ‘services’ menu at the top of this page.

Our advocacy services for Children and Young People

Where decisions are being made by a Local Authority about a 'Looked After Child' or 'Child in Need'

“Every child has the right to be supported by an advocate. The local authority must have a system in place to provide written, age appropriate information to each looked after child about the function and availability of an advocate and how to request one.”  – Statutory guidance for independent reviewing officers and local authorities on their functions in relation to case management and review for looked after children

Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides 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 and for these views to be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Consistent with this Article, the Children Act 1989 ensures that:

  • before making any decision with respect to a child whom they are looking after, or proposing to look after, a local authority must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child (section 22(4)); and

  • In making any such decision must give due consideration to the known wishes and feelings of the child with regard to their age and understanding, as well as their religion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background (section 22(5)).

Children should feel that they are active participants and engaged in the process
when adults are trying to solve problems and make decisions about them. The Children Act 1989 statutory Guidance and Regulations states that:

Where a child has difficulty in expressing his/her wishes and feelings about any decisions being made about him/her, consideration must be given to securing the support of an advocate.

A child or young person’s right to help from an advocate applies at any time that a decision is being or may be made, including at key times that a child or young person’s care is being reviewed. Children and young people must be made aware and provided with information and any support needed to understand what help an advocate can provide to them and how to access an advocate. The same guidance places the responsibility on Independent Reviewing Officers (social care professionals who must be appointed and whose duty is to ensure the care plans for looked after children are legally compliant and in the child’s best interest) to make sure that a child or young person understands how an advocate could help them, his/her entitlement to one and to tell children and young people how they can access advocacy services if they have a complaint (see below).

Children and young people wishing to make a complaint under the Children Act 1989

Children and young people can be especially vulnerable at times when they have a problem or want to make a complaint. Section 26A of the Children Act 1989 provides that every Local Authority in England and Wales must make arrangements for the provision of assistance from an advocate to any child who is being looked after by them or any ‘child in need’ who wishes to make ‘representations’ including a complaint about any of the functions for which the local authority is responsible. The same duty applies for:

  • any child aged 16 or 17 not currently looked after but who has previously been looked after by a Local Authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14, including for a period of time after their 16th birthday. This includes being provided with accommodation under sections 17 or 20 of the Children Act. (A ‘relevant child’ falling within section 23A);

  • any young person who was looked after by a Local Authority at the time they turned 18 and who had been ‘looked after’ by a Local Authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14. (A ‘young person’ falling within section 23C);

  • any child or young person under 21 who at any time between the age of 16 and 18 was (but no longer is) looked after, accommodated or fostered or is a child or young person aged 16 or over but not yet 21 who was looked after by a Local Authority immediately before becoming subject to a special guardianship order that is now in force or was in force at the time they became 18. (A ‘person qualifying for advice and assistance’ falling within section 24);

  • any child or young person in custody within a Young Offender Institution (YOI), Secure Training Centre (STC) who wishes to make a complaint about their care (8.67, 8.68 Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations).

  • any young person aged 25 or under who qualifies under section 24B of the Act for assistance toward expenses incurred in living near the place where they are or will be receiving education or training or qualifies for a grant to enable them to meet expenses connected with their education or training.

Working with Children and Young People

How we work with children and young people

Whenever an advocate works with a child or young person, it is the job of the advocate to discover the child or young person’s wishes and feelings. This may involve time and effort to get to know the child or young person well. Where appropriate, and only with the child or young person’s consent, views may be sought from other people such as parents, carers, grandparents, siblings and friends close to the child. Where there is conflict between the child or young person’s wishes and those of others, the advocate will give precedence to those of the child. The advocate will act exclusively on the child or young person’s behalf and have no potential or apparent conflicting interests or pressures that prevents them from acting on their instructions and acting in their best interests. Above all, the advocacy relationship is confidential and transparent – no information the advocate has or action they take is  hidden from the child or young person and no information is shared with others without the permission of the child.

We understand the importance of children and young people having control over the advocacy relationship. The child or young person should lead the advocacy process, with the advocate acting only upon the child or young person’s express permission and instructions, even when these are not the advocate’s view of the child or young person’s best interests. Only in exceptional circumstances would an advocate not follow this principle, for example, if doing so meant risk of significant harm to the child.

The advocate will provide the child or young people with all the relevant information they need and support them in interpreting and understanding that information so that they can make well-informed decisions. They will ensure that the views and wishes of children and young people are heard, understood and recorded in all decision-making that affects them. If the child or young person has a concern or complaint that they wish to raise, the advocate will support them to raise concerns or make a complaint using relevant formal processes.

The advocate will not make an assumption about the child or young person’s abilities to express their views but will help them to determine how he/she wishes to participate and communicate, and then support them to communicate their views and wishes freely and directly in the way that they want to. The advocate may help them with presentation, assertiveness and communication skills and may help them to draft written representations if this is what the child or young person wants to do.

Further Information:

Children Act 1989The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulationsAdvocacy services for children and young peopleIndependent reviewing officers’ handbookSupporting looked-after children with communication needs

If you think that you or someone you know would benefit from help from an advocate, contact us via the ‘contact’ link above or click ‘make a referral’.