Telling Concerns Practice Guides: Advocacy

Title of guidance:

Telling Concerns Practice Guides: Advocacy

Author: Children's Commissioner for Wales

Advocacy
Year published: 2004
Length: 14 pages
Format: PDF (196Kb)
Other formats: none indicated
Producer/ Publisher: Children's Commissioner for Wales
Type of organisation: Inspectorate

 

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Categories:

Children's services | Local government | External Service Guidance | UN Convention on the Rights of the Child | GB wide| Case studies

Audience: Senior Executives | Service management | Human resources | Front-line service personnel

Topics: Human rights | transparency and accountability | best interests | advocacy

Summary

This practice guide is based on a 2003 review of advocacy services to children and young people in Wales by the Children's Commissioner for Wales. It aims to support Welsh local authorities to implement the review's recommendations. However, it is relevant to all public authorities in Britain that wish to strengthen services that support children and young people to convey their needs and wishes to their local authority. It does not refer in detail to human rights standards; however, it is underpinned by human rights as the Children's Commissioner for Wales has express responsibility for protecting children's rights as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It can be read in conjunction with companion practice guides on whistleblowing and complaints.

Key human rights messages in this guidance

  • The practice of advocacy must remain at all times directed by the child or young person - and this principle must be understood by all those involved.
  • Advocacy services should have a clear confidentiality policy to reassure the child or young person that what they tell the advocate will only be passed on with their express permission, except in cases where the child or another child is at risk of significant harm.
  • Easy access to the advocacy service is critical because children and young people are easily discouraged from persevering with their concerns if they encounter difficulties.

Full review of this guidance

Background to this practice guide

In 2002, the Children's Commissioner for Wales reviewed arrangements for the provision of children's advocacy services, as well as whistleblowing and complaints procedures in Welsh local authorities.

The review, Telling Concerns, was published in 2003. It refers expressly to earlier recommendations made in the 2000 report Lost in Care after the inquiry by Sir Ronald Waterhouse into abuse in children's homes in North Wales stretching back 25 years.

In each area, the 2003 review identified recommendations of greatest strategic significance for social services. In relation to advocacy, these include:

  • Children and young people who are 'looked after' (that is, subject to supervision by the local authority whether at home or away from home) should be given access to an advocacy service as a priority by the local authority.
  • Local authorities should allow children and young people to make representation about any corporate issue rather than solely those relating to social services - a one-stop-shop approach. As a next step, local authority advocacy services should develop links with external agencies, the most immediate being health.

Using the practice guide

Background to this practice guide

In 2002, the Children's Commissioner for Wales reviewed arrangements for the provision of children's advocacy services, as well as whistleblowing and complaints procedures in Welsh local authorities.

The review, Telling Concerns, was published in 2003. It refers expressly to earlier recommendations made in the 2000 report Lost in Care after the inquiry by Sir Ronald Waterhouse into abuse in children's homes in North Wales stretching back 25 years.

In each area, the 2003 review identified recommendations of greatest strategic significance for social services. In relation to advocacy, these include:

  • Children and young people who are 'looked after' (that is, subject to supervision by the local authority whether at home or away from home) should be given access to an advocacy service as a priority by the local authority.
  • Local authorities should allow children and young people to make representation about any corporate issue rather than solely those relating to social services - a one-stop-shop approach. As a next step, local authority advocacy services should develop links with external agencies, the most immediate being health.

Using the practice guide

This short guide uses an extended practical case study to explain how these and other recommendations can be put into practice.

The case study involves a Welsh-speaking 11 year old, Jenny. Her foster carers reprimand her for getting in trouble at school for defending her friend during a bullying incident and for pursuing what they - and her social worker - regard as an inappropriate friendship. Jenny is not allowed to have a sleepover with the friend because his parents have not been checked out. Jenny feels restricted and embarrassed but is unsure whether or how to complain. She is eventually supported to do so by an advocate.

At each stage in the scenario, the guide explains, with reference to examples from Welsh authorities:

  • what options are open to Jenny and her advocate
  • what an effective advocacy service looks like

The guide is short and readable; it contains subheadings in form of questions which make it easier to navigate than the companion guides on whistleblowing and complaints.

Key messages in the practice guide

The guide explains that there are three main types of advocacy:

  • issue-based advocacy where an advocate assists a child or young person in making a particular complaint or representation.
  • relationship-based advocacy where an advocate acts on a long-term basis on behalf of a child or young person; this is particularly suitable for vulnerable children and young people.
  • general advocacy where advocates may lobby on behalf of groups or particular communities.

Key generic principles explained in the guide include:

  • Children and young people should be involved in the design and dissemination of information about advocacy services they are best placed to decide how such information can be made accessible to them and their peers.
  • Advocacy services must respond to varied needs; for example, language and communication needs.
  • Easy access to the advocacy service is vital because children and young people are easily discouraged from persevering with their concerns if they encounter difficulties. Local authorities should consider developing their use of e-mail, web pages and text messaging.
  • The practice of advocacy must remain at all times directed by the child or young person - and this principle must be understood by all those involved.
  • Advocacy services should have a clear confidentiality policy to reassure the child or young person that what they tell the advocate will only be passed on with their express permission, except in cases where the child or another child is at risk of significant harm.
  • If children and young people choose to have a family member, friend or peer to represent their views, then this option should be supported, and, if necessary, facilitated by the advocacy provider.
     

Related equality messages (if applicable):

The guide makes no specific reference to equality or non-discrimination.

Date of review

April 2011

Feedback

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