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6.2.2 Advocacy and Independent Visitors

RELATED GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review

Advocacy services for children and young people – A guide for commissioners (The Children’s Society)

AMENDMENT

In December 2017 this chapter was updated to add a link to the Children’s Society ‘Advocacy services for children and young people – a guide for commissioners’. This guide outlines the legislative requirements of local authorities in the provision of advocacy support to children in need and looked after children.

Contents

1. Advocates
2. Independent Visitors
2.1 When to Appoint
2.2 Duties of Independent Visitor
2.3 Review of Appointment


1. Advocates

The rights of looked after children to have a say in decisions about their lives is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the Children Act 1989. Before making any decision with respect to a child who the local authority is looking after or proposing to look after, the authority must ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child. Where children have difficulty in expressing their wishes or feelings about any decisions made about them, consideration must be given to securing the support of an advocate. See also Advocacy services for children and young people – A guide for commissioners (The Children’s Society).

An appointment of an advocate for a Looked After child is appropriate where a child wishes to be represented at a meeting (for example a Looked After Review) or assisted in making a complaint or bringing a matter to the attention of the care provider, the local authority or the Regulatory Authority.

All children are given the opportunity to access an advocate for their Looked After Review. Advocacy services are provided by an independent provider who contact the child direct in advance of each review.

This information should be included in the Children's Guide or provided to them at any time by their social worker or Independent Reviewing Officer especially where their wishes and feelings may not be in accordance with plans being made for them.


2. Independent Visitors

2.1 When to Appoint

An appointment of an Independent Visitor for a Looked After Child must be made:

  • Where it appears to be in the best interests of the child to make such an appointment.

A decision to appoint an Independent Visitor will usually be made at a child's Looked After Review except where the child is placed in secure accommodation, in which case arrangements must be made by the child’s social worker for the appointment to take place as soon as practicable after the placement.

The Independent Visitor service is provided by an independent provider. Where an appointment is considered necessary, the child's social worker will i contact the service provider to request a suitable match to be identified.

Before the appointment is made, the proposed Independent Visitor must have been checked with the Disclosure and Barring Service, local Children's Services and Probation records and have the agreement of the social worker's manager. The appointment must be confirmed in writing.

The child must be consulted about the appointment and if he or she objects, the appointment should not be made.

2.2 Duties of Independent Visitor

The Independent Visitor will have a duty to make regular visits to the child and maintain other contact, by telephone and letter as appropriate.

The main purpose of the visits and contacts will be to befriend the child and give advice and assistance as appropriate with the aim of promoting the child's development and social, emotional, educational, religious and cultural needs.

The Independent Visitor should also encourage the child to participate in decision-making.

The views of the Independent Visitor should be sought before each Looked After Review to which he or she should be invited if the child requests it.

2.3 Review of Appointment

The need to continue the appointment should be considered at the child's Looked After Reviews, and the child's wishes and feelings will be the main consideration in deciding the need for the continued appointment.

End