Category: Independent advocacy

John Kemmis: a man children could always depend upon

John KemmisIt is with tremendous sadness that we mourn the loss of John Kemmis, who died with his family by his side yesterday afternoon.

We also celebrate who John was, what he stood for and what he gave to children.

Maria, 54, met John when she was 3 or 4 years-old and first went into care. John was Maria’s social worker. She said:

“There were two incredibly kind people that I remember and cherish from my childhood, one was the cook from the children’s home and the other was John. I will never forget him.”

John was a “really significant” person in Hiwet’s life. Now aged 38, she came to the UK as a child refugee and it was only through having an advocate that she was able to be fostered and move from her children’s home. Hiwet has many lovely memories of working with John at Voice for the Child in Care (now known as Coram Voice), and thinks of him with love and happiness.

Article 39’s national campaign to strengthen children’s independent advocacy was John’s idea. His vision and determination led to a Parliamentary roundtable in June this year, after which the Children’s Commissioner for England established an Advocacy Working Group which will report early in 2019.  Nearly 50 organisations now back our campaign, whose goals were crafted by John.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“John was a man of deep principle and purpose. He stood by children because he believed in them. He saw and felt the injustice of children not being heard, not being believed and not being helped. Then he translated what he saw and felt into action. And brought others with him. Over many years.

“John was an exceptionally kind and warm human being. His smile was energising and his commitment motivating. If we in the charity world are allowed to have comrades, then John Kemmis was my comrade. His work and legacy goes on.”

You can read more about John’s 50+ year career in social work and children’s rights here (published by the British Association of Social Workers).

In October 2018, John was the inaugural winner of the Stand Out Children’s Advocacy Award. Read more here.

Article 39 to set up national advocates network

In July 2018, Article 39 conducted an online survey of independent advocates in England. The findings give insight into their experiences, their workload and challenges, the groups of children they work with and what would help advocates give the best help to children and young people.

Article 39’s Assistant Director, Helen Donohoe, said:

“This survey reinforces our previous concerns that the provision of independent advocacy for vulnerable children and young people in England is inconsistent and disjointed. The results also show unequivocal support for a form of training from Article 39 and greater peer-to-peer connection and support. In response to that we will launch a nationwide advocates network in early 2019.”

Read the survey report here: Article 39 The 2018 survey of independent advocates.

Young people name new children’s rights campaign

Two young people from Sheffield Children in Care Council have named an exciting new campaign to strengthen children’s independent advocacy services in England. Independent advocates help children and young people to be heard and taken seriously, and play a crucial and unique role in making sure children’s rights are upheld.

Seventeen year-old Heather put forward ‘Advocates4U’ and Megan, aged 16, proposed ‘Your future, your dreams, your voice’.

Advocates4U-logo Your future, your dreams, your voice
Both young people are members of Sheffield Children in Care Council. Their winning entries were selected by a panel of judges including care leaver and author Ben Ashcroft who last year walked 300 miles to raise awareness of a separate campaign to promote the rights of young people living in residential care. Heather and Megan each win a £100 gift voucher.

On hearing her campaign name had been selected, Heather said:

“Wow this is so exciting and kind, and I don’t really know what to say!”

Megan said:

“Thank you for helping us have our voices heard and our opinions viewed. Thank you for this opportunity to win this wonderful prize.”

Children in Care Council members were invited to come up with a name that sums up the national campaign’s three goals, which are: for the government to have a national strategy to ensure children and young people can access high quality support from independent advocates; a legal entitlement to an advocate for all children and young people receiving or seeking care or support from the state; and visiting advocates for all institutions caring for children and young people.

John Kemmis, one of the judges from Article 39 children’s rights charity, said:

“Many congratulations to our two winners Heather and Megan. Heather’s winning entry clearly communicates what our campaign is about and we believe Megan’s words will inspire children and young people by summing up why advocacy is so important. Let’s hope that policy makers listen and make children’s independent advocacy services a national priority.”

Another judge, Claire Hyde, Assistant Chief Executive of NYAS, added:

“This is just the start of what we know will be a successful campaign which is involving children and young people from the onset to improve what is a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society.”

The campaign was launched by Article 39 in partnership with the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers at the end of November 2017.

It already boasts the support of nearly 40 organisations and all three current and former Children’s Commissioners for England.


  1. Local authorities first began appointing advocates (initially called children’s rights officers) in the late 1980s, amid revelations of widespread abuse in children’s residential care.
  2. Organisations can sign up to the campaign here.
  3. The Advocates4U Your future, your dreams, your voice campaign strategy group consists of Article 39, Coram Voice, the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers, NYAS and YoungMinds.
  4. Article 39 is very grateful to The Hadley Trust for supporting our policy work around children’s independent advocacy.


1 in 5 children in care and care leavers has used an advocate

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.”

Read the report here.