In November 2017, with the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO), we launched a national campaign to strengthen children and young people’s advocacy services. The campaign has three goals:
1) The development of a national strategy for children’s right to independent advocacy in England, framed around what children value and want from their advocates. We anticipate this national strategy will address the following priorities:
- 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
- Review and revision of national standards for the provision of skilled, independent advocacy
- 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 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.
The campaign was conceived and championed by our dear friend and colleague, the late John Kemmis. Heather and Megan from Sheffield Children in Care Council gave the campaign its name – Advocates4U.
Campaign strategy group
Advocates4U is run by a campaign strategy group co-ordinated by Article 39. Members of the group:
- Ben Twomey, Head of Policy and Research, NYAS
- Brigid Robinson, Managing Director, Coram Voice, and Co-Chair National Children’s Advocacy Consortium
- Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
- Jenny Clifton, Article 39 Expert Panel
- Jon Fayle, Co-Chair, NAIRO
We approached former Children’s Minister and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children Tim Loughton MP with the idea of a parliamentary inquiry. This led to him hosting a parliamentary roundtable chaired by Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, in June 2018.
Children’s Commissioner’s Advocacy Working Group
Anne Longfield then established an Advocacy Working Group to develop a vision for the future of children and young people’s advocacy services. The report from this work was published in June 2019. One of the Commissioner’s 10 recommendations is for the Department for Education to update statutory guidance (including the national standards) on advocacy services.
Revision of the national standards for children and young people’s advocacy services
Article 39 worked with the Co-Chairs of the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium (Brigid Robinson and Julie Prior) and an Expert Advisory Group of practising advocates to revise the standards. This is so they properly reflect current law and policy, and the challenges faced by children and young people and their advocates today.
On the evening of 2 March 2020, Children’s Minister Vicky Ford announced that the Department for Education would be consulting on a new set of standards. Brilliant! We look forward to children and young people being at the heart of this consultation, in keeping with the purpose and values of advocacy.
We are very grateful for the time and expertise of advocates who reviewed and improved the 2002 standards. Members of the Expert Advisory Group:
- Andy Curtis, Reconstruct
- Emma Robinson, Coram Voice
- Gill Black, Change, Grow, Live
- Kate Pearson, Barnardo’s
- Kate Seneviratne-Wheatley, Citizens Advice Sheffield
- Lisa Foo, NYAS
- Lynn Brady, Action for Children
- Raakhee Varia, Leicester City Council
- Rosie Eatwell-White, Just for Kids Law
- Sara Gomes, Action for Children
- Sarah Louise Holmes, Citizens Advice Sheffield
- Shelly Eades-Jones, Barnardo’s
- Sophie Conway, Just for Kids Law