The Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England has published its first ‘State of the Nation’ report, which gives the results of its national survey with children in care and care leavers.
One aspect of the survey focuses on children and young people’s knowledge and use of independent advocates. These are individuals working independently of statutory agencies who inform children and young people of their rights, and support them to express their views, raise concerns and challenge decisions. Whenever a child or young person in contact with children’s services makes a complaint, the local authority is required by law to inform them of their right to assistance from an independent advocate.
The Commissioner’s survey found that more than one in five (22%) children in care and care leavers have used an advocate, and nearly half (46%) knew how to get one. However, 39% of survey respondents (n=1760) did not know how to get an advocate, and a further 16% were unsure. This is despite regulations encouraging Independent Reviewing Officers, assigned to all looked after children and young people, to ensure the local authority has given information about their complaints procedure and access to advocates.
The report has some direct quotes from children and young people about the value of advocacy, including this one:
“I felt my word wasn’t taken seriously because I was a minor young person so I asked for an advocate so that they could take me seriously.”