Bath and North East Somerset


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7.2.3 The Provision of Advocacy for Children in Care

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in January 2015 to emphasise the rights of children and young people to advocacy services if or when wishing to make a complaint.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Aims of this Protocol
  3. Definitions
  4. Why Provide Advocacy? - Legal and Policy Framework
  5. The Protocol


1. Introduction

This protocol sets out how advocacy will be routinely offered to all children in care aged 7 and over as part of the review process.

It is important to note the following:

  • All children and young people in care can initiate contact with the advocacy service between reviews;
  • Children under 7 years who would benefit from advocacy need to be referred to Shout Out! by their Social Worker, Foster Carer or Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO);
  • All children and young people, including care leavers, who are making or intending to make a representation or a complaint under S.24D or S.26 of the Children Act 1989 are entitled to receive advocacy support;
  • Other situations which should automatically trigger a referral from the Social Worker to the Advocacy Service include:
    • Where a child in care is facing a change of placement or a change of school;
    • Where a young person aged 16/17  presents as homeless but refuses an offer of Section 20 Accommodation (Children Act 1989).


2. Aims of this Protocol

  • To ensure all children in care are aware of their right to advocacy and know how to access the local advocacy service;
  • To ensure advocacy is explained to children in care consistently and by an  independent person;
  • To set out escalation procedures for situations where issues are not easily resolved.


3. Definitions

‘Advocacy’ means:

  • Empowering children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times;
  • Representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to decision makers, and helping them navigate the system;
  • Providing independent and confidential information, representation and support.

(National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services, DOH, 2002)

'Advocacy Services’ assist children and young people in resolving their concerns and complaints, providing independent and confidential:

  • Information;
  • Advice;
  • Advocacy;
  • Representation; and
  • Support.

(National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services, DOH, 2002)


4. Why Provide Advocacy? - Legal and Policy Framework

  1. Children and young people have a right to be heard in all matters affecting them (Article 12, United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child);
  2. The Children Act (1989) establishes the child’s right to be heard in law, stating that, before making any decision about a child whom the local authority is looking after or proposing to look after, the authority must, so far as reasonably practicable, ascertain, and give due consideration to, the wishes and feelings of the child {Sections 22(4) & (5)};
  3. The Children Leaving Care Act 2000 requires local authorities to make advocacy available to all care leavers who want to make a complaint;
  4. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 places a duty on local authorities to provide advocacy services to children who wish to make a complaint or representation under the 1989 Children Act;
  5. Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2010) build on previous legislation, adding greater emphasis to the importance of listening to children in care and highlighting benefits, such as greater ownership and better understanding of services and plans. They explicitly state; ‘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’. These regulations also require advocacy to be available to any care leaver up to the age of 25 who wishes to make a complaint about the care they received;
  6. ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (Department of Health, 2013) emphasises that ‘Effective safeguarding systems are child centred’ and ‘Failings in safeguarding systems are too often the result of losing sight of the needs and views of the children within them, or placing the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children’.

The local advocacy service is Shout Out!

Contact details:
Shout Out!
Off the Record
Open House Centre
Manvers Street
Bath
BA1 1JW

Tel: 01225 312481
Mobile: 0775 389 1745
Email: office@offtherecord-banes.co.uk
Website: www.offtherecord-banes.co.uk/


5. The Protocol

B&NES Children’s Service has an agreement with Shout Out! that all children and young people in care aged 7 or older (who consent), will be contacted by an Advocate before their review meetings with a view to helping them express their wishes and feelings at the meeting. This protocol sets out in detail how this will work.

Step 1 - Initial contact from the Advocacy Service

  1. Whenever a child or young person aged 7 or over comes into care, the Independent Reviewing Service (IRS) administrator will inform Shout Out! and provide the following details: name, DOB, placement address, telephone number and Social Worker’s details;
  2. An Advocate from Shout Out! will then make contact the Social Worker and Foster Carer to discuss the best way to deliver information about the advocacy service to the child / young person. For younger children this will most likely be a visit to the foster placement and include watching a short film called ‘Sofia and Percy’. Older children and young people may be happy with a phone call. Some children and young people may prefer to meet the advocate elsewhere, such as in cafes / children centres or school. Where the meeting is at the school, the advocate should attempt to see the young person outside lesson times and  the advocate needs to talk to the designated teacher for looked after children at the school about arranging the meeting and minimising disruption to learning;
  3. After explaining advocacy to the child / young person, the Advocate will check whether they would like some help to express their wishes and feelings about their experience of being in care at their initial review and also seek consent to contact them before subsequent review meetings to offer a service;
  4. If the child / young person declines advocacy at this point, the Advocate will let them know that Shout Out! will get in touch again before the next review.

‘Non Instructed Advocacy’ for disabled children and young people

If, when the advocate makes contact, s/he determines that the child /young person is unable to instruct on whether they want an advocacy service, further support will only be given following a referral from the Social Worker, Foster Carer or IRO about a specific issue.

PLEASE REMEMBER: Children under 7 years who would benefit from advocacy need to be referred to Shout Out! by their Social Worker, Foster Carer or Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO).

Step 2 - Review Advocacy

  • At least one week before the beginning of every month, the IRS administrator will provide Shout Out! with a list of future review dates covering a 6 week period from the 1st of the month;
  • Shout Out! will contact the Social worker and Foster Carer to discuss the best way to deliver information about the advocacy service to the child / young person and ask if there is any significant information that they should be aware of before they contact any child or young person who has said they want review advocacy to arrange a meeting;
  • The advocate gives the child / young person choice over where and when to meet.  Should they want to meet in school, disruption to education must be kept to a minimum. The advocate will liaise with the designated teacher for   looked after children over the best time to meet. Foster Carers will be kept informed about meetings. See note on Confidentiality below;
  • IROs will notify Shout Out! when Review dates change and need to know when advocates are planning to attend reviews;
  • The advocate will inform the IRO of the child’s wishes and feeling at least one day before the review;
  • The Advocate will receive notes of the Review Meeting within 15 days and at this point will check with the child / young person that they feel their views were heard and, where appropriate, acted upon; 
  • Where a situation remains unresolved, please refer to the escalation procedures below;
  • In order to help Shout Out! maintain accurate contact details for children in care, the IRS administrator will provide an updated contact list 3 times a year (to include name, DOB, placement address, telephone number and Social Worker). When the IRS administrator is informed that a child / young person has left care, this information will be passed to Shout Out!

Confidentiality

It is important that children and young people in care know they can initiate contact with Shout Out! in confidence just like other young person can. This is an important safeguard.

However, where the advocacy service initiates contact under this protocol the following confidentiality agreement applies:

  • Social Workers, Foster Carers and IROs need to know that an advocate is involved in the review process;
  • Social Workers need to advise the advocate of any significant information that would mean the child / young person needs extra support during the advocacy process;
  • Foster Carers need to be clear on the whereabouts of the children in their care at all times, they need to be kept informed of meetings. The advocate will alert the foster carer if a child has reacted adversely to the issues raised in the meeting and may need extra support;
  • Children and young people will have control over what information, if any, is relayed to their Social Worker /Foster Carer and / or shared at their Review Meeting;
  • Advocates have a duty to report any safeguarding issues to the child’s social worker as soon as is practicable. This information cannot be confidential. If the social worker is unavailable the advocate should ask to speak to the duty social worker.

Publicity

  1. Shout Out! will arrange an annual mail shot with an information leaflet about the service for children in care and their foster carers. This will highlight the benefits of advocacy and encourage children / young people to use the service. This will be sent out every January;
  2. IROs will continue to promote the service through the Review Process;
  3. Shout Out! will attend one of the four foster care coffee meetings held each year.

End