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Gateshead's Advocacy Offer for Children and Young People

RELATED CHAPTER

Independent Visitors Policy

AMENDMENT

In November 2019, minor amendments were made throughout in line with local practice. Updated Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart was added.


Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 What is advocacy?
1.2 Who can access advocacy?
1.3 What types of advocacy are there?
2. Gateshead’s Advocacy Commitment
3. Advocacy options for children and young people in Gateshead
3.1 Advocacy for looked after children, young people leaving care and other children in need
3.2 Specialist advocacy for disabled children and young people
4. Procedure for Accessing an Advocate
5. Timescales
Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart


1. Introduction

1.1 What is advocacy?

"Advocacy…is about empowering children and young people to make sure their rights are respected and that their views and wishes are fully considered and reflected in decision-making about their own lives." Get it Sorted, 2004

Children and young people have the right to have a say about what happens to them, and for their views to be taken into account. Under Sections 24d and 26 of the 1989 Children Act, the Local Authority has a duty to provide advocacy for Looked After children who want to make a representation.

The Advocacy Services and Representations Procedures (Children) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 outline the duty given to Local Authorities to make arrangements for the provision of advocacy services for children and young people who are Looked After.

The role of an Advocate is to represent the views of a child or young person by: 

  • Listening to children and young people when there is something they are unhappy about and helping to get it sorted;
  • Representing the views of a child or young person where there is a serious matter the young person wants to see addressed, or if they want to make a formal complaint.

An Advocate can provide advice on ways of resolving a situation, talk to the relevant people about the issue the young person wants resolved, or support the young person to do this themselves. An Advocate works solely on behalf of the young person and represent his or her views – without any conflict of interest.

1.2 Who can Access Advocacy?

Looked After children, young people leaving care and other vulnerable children in need can access advocacy support through the Local Authority.

1.3 What Types of Advocacy are there?

There are various forms of advocacy including: self advocacy - a person expressing their own needs and representing their own interests; case or crisis advocacy - undertaken by paid advocates who provide an immediate short-term response to an identified issue; citizen advocacy - an ongoing partnership between a trained volunteer and a person who is not in a strong position to exercise their rights; peer advocacy - support from people who have had similar life experiences.


2. Gateshead’s Advocacy Commitment

The core principles which inform the delivery of advocacy services for children and young people in Gateshead are:

  • Advocacy services will work solely in the interests of children and young people;
  • Advocates will value and respect children and young people as individuals; and should ensure 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;
  • Advocacy services will ensure that independent advocates provide appropriate assistance to the child, taking into account their age, means of communication, language, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, health or disability. The advocate, when representing a child or young person, should be able to communicate effectively in a way the child is happy with;
  • Children and young people will be provided with clear information about the support and advocacy available to them and can choose the type of support they need.


3. Advocacy options for children and young people in Gateshead

The range of advocacy options for looked after children in Gateshead is outlined below:

3.1 Advocacy for Looked After Children, Young People Leaving Care and Other Children in Need

The Children’s Rights Officer exists to make sure that children and young people in care know their rights and are fairly treated. The service provides information, help and advice over the phone, by letter or by visiting young people. The service produces and distributes information to looked after children about their rights and what they can expect from the Children’s Services. If a child or young person has an issue they can contact the Children’s Rights Officer directly. The Children’s Rights Officer regularly visits children’s residential homes.

Family and Friends - Looked after children and young people can ask someone they know to help them resolve an issue or speak on their behalf if they want. This could be a relative, teacher, youth worker or friend. However if there is a conflict of interest it might not be appropriate for that person to act as an advocate for the young person. The Children’s Rights Officer can give young people information to help them decide whether it is better for them to have informal advocacy from someone they know or to use another form of advocacy.

Peer advocacy – One Voice Youth Network gives looked after children opportunities to get involved in reviewing and developing services and expressing their ideas and views through a range of creative arts projects.

Externally-commissioned advocacy provision - Where a looked after child wishes to make a complaint or a representation under Section 24d or 26 of the 1989 Children’s Act they are entitled to support from a formal, independent advocate if they wish. In Gateshead this advocacy is provided by an externally commissioned advocacy organisation: The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS). The process for this is outlined in the flowchart at Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart.

Independent Visitors are trained and supported volunteers who have statutory duties established in the 1989 Children Act to visit, advise and befriend children. Their role is to provide a positive adult influence in the life of the child. Contact with an Independent Visitor is usually initiated if this is regarded as a need at the child’s LAC review. A young person may ask his or her Independent Visitor to speak on his or her behalf, or to help resolve a difficulty, in the same way they might ask someone else they know to act as an advocate. In Gateshead Independent Visitors are provided by an externally commissioned organisation. If a young person would like to access the service please contact the Children’s Commissioning Team.

See also Independent Visitors Policy.

3.2 Specialist Advocacy for Disabled Children and Young People

Gateshead’s Disabled Children's Involvement Worker supports disabled children and young people to express their views and be heard. The Involvement Worker uses a range of communication tools to support young people, including widget, picture exchange symbols (PECS), Makaton, pictures, photographs, videos.

She spends time building up a relationship with individual children to help them communicate their views at reviews and in care planning. The Involvement Worker also spends time in special schools, finding out what services the young people access and if there are reasons why they are not accessing services they want or need.

Externally-commissioned advocacy provision - If a disabled child wishes to make a complaint or a representation under Section 24d or 26 of the 1989 Children’s Act they are entitled to support from a formal, independent advocate if they wish. In Gateshead the advocacy service is provided by NYAS which is an externally commissioned advocacy organisation who can provide specialist advocates for children with complex communication needs. NYAS contact number is 0808 808 1001. The process for this is outlined in the flowchart at Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart.


4. Procedure for Accessing an Advocate

Action Responsibility Guidance
A young person expresses a wish to have advice and support in attending a Looked After Review, Education meeting, or in any other matter, which does not demand an element of independence from the Local Authority.

The young person's social worker should advise the young person about the Children's Rights Officer and if necessary make a referral on his/her behalf. The Children's Rights Officer will advise on the appropriateness of the referral.
A young person expresses a wish to have the support of an advocate. The young person's social worker and Team Manager should discuss the request, giving consideration to the type of support the young person needs and to the duration of support. Either the Children's Rights Officer or the Children's Commissioning Team should be consulted for funding and monitoring purposes.

 

The Local Authority has a duty to provide independent advocacy to Looked After Children and Young People.

The social worker should ensure that the young person has information about advocates, who can act as an advocate and information about advocacy services. If necessary, a referral should be made on behalf of the young person.

A young person accesses an advocacy service directly, for the purpose of seeking advice and support in expressing his/her views and wishes, or to challenge his/her care plan.

The social worker should notify either the Children's Rights Officer or the Children's Commissioning Team to enable appropriate monitoring, and commissioning functions to be adhered to. It is essential that the Advocacy service the young person has contacted have a contract to provide services to the Local Authority. However, should the young person insist on a particular advocate this will need to be negotiated.

A young person wishes to make a complaint about the service he/she is receiving.

 

 

 

 

 

The Complaints Manager will contact the young person to establish that he/she wishes to make a complaint, as opposed to expressing unhappiness or making a grumble about the service.

The Complaints Manager will ask the young person if he/she wishes to have the support of an advocate and make any arrangements necessary to ensure the young person is put in touch with a trained advocate.

Social workers should contact the Complaints Manager when they become aware of any young person who is considering making a complaint, to enable the problem or concern to be resolved as quickly as possible.


5. Timescales

Once a child or young person contacts the advocacy service directly or a professional contacts the service on behalf of the child, the provider will respond within one working day by phone or visit.

The provider will then visit the child as soon as possible within 3 working days.

The Complaints Manager or Children’s Rights Officer (depending on whether the advocacy is complaint related) will discuss with the advocacy provider the parameters of the advocacy that will be provided. Cases will be reviewed after 8 hours of direct advocacy support. If the child or young person continues to need support from an advocate beyond that time the advocate will contact the Children’s Commissioning Service to agree extending the provision.


Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Advocacy Flowchart.

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