Procedures for the Provision of Advocacy Services and gaining the voice of the child
1.There are lots of reasons why children and young people may need independent help to express their views, feelings and wishes.
2.Article 12 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of a Child (1989) states that ‘children have a right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account’.
3.The Child or Young Person’s views may conflict with the views or their parents, carers and professionals involved with the family.
4.Most importantly, the child or young person should have the opportunity to make their views known whatever they may be and have these views considered as part of the decision making process.
5.Advocacy promotes a child and young person centred approach in everything it aims to achieve and is based on the belief that everyone has the right to:
- Be respected and listened to.
- Be involved in the decisions that affect their lives.
- Have aspirations for their future.
6.The role of an Advocate in a Child Protection Conference is to:
- Make sure a child or young person has the support to be able to make their views, wishes and feelings known.
- Attend Child Protection Conferences and Core Group Meetings with or on behalf of the Child or Young Person.
- Provide unbiased information to the child or young person.
- Support the child or young person through the process of the Child Protection Conference and explain any difficulties in understanding.
- Ensure that the child or young person’s rights are upheld and that they are fairly treated.
1.The Army Welfare Service provides independent Advocacy Services to children and young people across British Forces Germany and the European Joint Support Unit areas.
2.The Advocacy Service will accept a referral directly from the child or young person or from anyone closely involved with them.
3.The Advocacy Service can be contacted by, telephone, fax or email.
4.The Social Work Service will discuss the Advocacy Service with each Child or Young Person of an age of understanding and submit with the consent of the Child or Young Person a Nomination Form (Annex to be added).
11.There is no specific minimum age to receive support from the Advocacy Service; however the likelihood is that support will be given to children and young people aged 10 years old and over.
12.If the lead Social Worker working with a child under the age of 10 years old feels that he or she is mature enough to attend a Child Protection Conference and will benefit form the Advocacy Service then a request will be considered.
The Next Step
13.The Army Welfare Service will contact the child or young person directly and will discuss with them the type of Advocate they would like, whether male, female, ethnicity etc. the Advocacy Service will then try and find the right person.
14.It is not always possible to find the required fit and in this instance the Advocacy Service will go back to the child or young person to discuss alternatives.
15.Only those persons fully trained in Advocacy will be assigned to support the CHILD OR YOUNG PERSON as an independent advocate.
16.The advocate should allow the opportunity for the child to discuss what happened during the Child Protection Conference including decisions made and if appropriate the outline of the Child protection plan immediately after the conference.
17.If the advocate has any concerns about the child these should be discussed with the lead social worker.
The voice of the child
18.The BFG Safeguarding Board is committed to ensuring that children are able participate in the plans and decisions that affect their lives in a way that is a matter for conversation, not consultation.
19.Instead of treating children like a commodity, a resource to be mined for information for the benefit of adults, the approach to be taken is more collaborative, more about listening and sharing.
20.Not all children will feel that they want to take up the support of an independent advocate but may prefer to choose other means of being supported to give their views.
21.Other forms of advocacy that could be considered are:
When an individual speaks up or takes action by themselves or is helped to speak up for themselves.
When an individual asks someone they know (such as a family member, friend or carer or someone who has the same disability, illness, condition or circumstances) to speak up or take action for that individual (also known as “peer advocacy”).
When an individual asks a group of people or an organisation to speak up or take action for them.
22.Children who want assistance with communicating their wishes and feelings may choose to be represented by a relative or friend. However it must be noted that there is often a potential for conflict of interest, particularly where family members may be the abusersand this may result in the views of the child being inaccurately represented. As an activity, advocacy requires objectivity, sensitivity, and neutrality. Therefore professionals should always consider what form of advocacy is appropriate in individual cases.
23.The BFG Safeguarding Board considers that this guidance relates not only to attendance at conferences/core groups, but should be extended to all aspects of a child’s involvement with statutory and non-statutory children’s services (Child in Need and Early Help) if it is believed that this will benefit the child or young person.
24.Professionals should also recognise that even if children do not attend meetings, they need to be informed and helped to give their views, and participate in a range of ways to influence decisions. For example by writing, drawing or modelling, etc.
25.In summary, children are more concerned about being heard, being respected and seen as individuals; they appreciate the time taken to build relationships, they want to know what is going on and who will be taking part, and finally they want explanations before, during and after the meeting. Participation is as much about other people’s behaviour, respect, care and consideration towards them.