Children’s right to independent advocacy

advocate-girl

On International Children’s Rights Day (20 November) 2017, Article 39 launched an exciting new campaign to strengthen children’s right to independent advocacy. We are running the campaign in partnership with the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers. On the same day, we opened our competition for Children in Care Councils in England to come up with a great campaign name. Find out more by downloading our Competition flyer.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, is backing our campaign. She says:

“High quality, independent advocacy can have a transformational impact on the lives of vulnerable children. It helps improve outcomes for children, increasing their confidence and making sure their voices are heard when they are not listened to or included in important decisions about their lives. I am very pleased to support Article 39’s important campaign to strengthen children’s right to an independent advocate.”

We already have the support of over 35 organisations. Please sign up now to join our campaign:

Independent advocacy is a process of helping children to express themselves, make and influence decisions affecting them and bring about positive change. It empowers children to ensure their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. A review in Wales reported that, for children, the results of independent advocacy spanned ‘small victories to being lifesaving’. A 12 year-old girl told the NSPCC that having an independent advocate had ‘helped change my life’.

Our 3 campaign goals:

1) The development of a national strategy for children’s right to independent advocacy[i] in England, framed around what children value and want from their advocates. We anticipate this national strategy will address the following priorities[ii]:

  • Awareness-raising of independent advocacy among children
  • Ensuring independent advocacy is readily available and accessible to children
  • Ensuring independent advocates have the knowledge, skills and capacity to
  • navigate children’s rights in a variety of contexts[iii]
  • Review and revision of national standards for the provision of skilled, independent advocacy[iv]
  • Resourcing advocacy to guarantee its independence and effectiveness
    Mechanisms within and outside government to promote children’s independent advocacy and co-ordinate and oversee its development nationally.

2) To enshrine in law the right to an independent advocate for all children and young people receiving or seeking care or support from the state.

3) To ensure every residential institution[v] where children are looked after by the state has a system of independent visiting advocates to inform children about their rights and provide support when necessary to ensure these rights are upheld.

[i] Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child grants all children (human beings aged 17 and under) the right to express their views in all matters affecting them, and to have these views given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.
[ii] This is not an exhaustive list. The purpose of a national strategy would be to strengthen current provision and arrangements where they exist; to initiate new developments; and to ensure coherence and consolidation.
[iii] This is to avoid a child having to seek advocacy assistance from different advocates/advocacy services: advocates should be able to deal with more than one area of law, policy and practice.
[iv] In 2002, the Department of Health published national standards for the provision of children’s advocacy services. At that time, independent advocacy was mostly available only to children in care and care leavers. Now independent advocacy is offered to children in a variety of settings, including health and custody, and during processes such as child protection and school exclusion.
[v] Encompassing social care, health (including mental health in-patient units), education and custody.