AMENDMENTIn July 2017, this chapter was updated to include a link to the Children's Society publication 'Advocacy Services for Children and Young People – A Guide for Commissioners'. This guide outlines the legislative requirements of local authorities in the provision of advocacy support to Children in Need and Children Looked After.
The rights of Children Looked After to have a say in decisions about their lives is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the Children Act 1989. Before making any decision with respect to a child who the local authority is looking after or proposing to look after, the authority must ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child. Where children have difficulty in expressing their wishes or feelings about any decisions made about them, consideration must be given to securing the support of an advocate. See also Advocacy Services for Children and Young People – A Guide for Commissioners (The Children's Society).
An appointment of an Advocate for a Child Looked After is necessary where a child wishes to be represented at a meeting (for example a Child Looked After Review) or assisted in making a complaint or bringing a matter to the attention of the care provider, the local authority or the Regulatory Authority.
Information must be provided to all Children Looked After explaining how they can gain access to a suitably skilled Independent Advocate.
This information should be included in the Children's Guide or provided to them at any time by their social worker or Independent Reviewing Officer especially where their wishes and feelings may not be in accordance with plans being made for them. Information should be in a range of accessible formats.
Assistance must also be given to enable an Advocate to be appointed for the child for example by approaching the independent organisation on behalf of the child. Particular consideration needs to be given to the needs of disabled children, very young children, children placed out of the local authority area and those with complex communication needs who need the support of an Advocate.For information about the Advocacy Services provided by Calderdale, please contact The Children's Rights and Advocacy
An Advocate's key objective is to promote children and young people's central involvement in decisions affecting their lives. The nature of support advocacy provides varies considerably as it is dependent upon each local authority's commissioning arrangements but every service is based around the following core principles:
An appointment of an Independent Visitor for a Child Looked After must be made:
A decision to appoint an Independent Visitor will usually be made at the Child Looked After Review except where the child is placed in secure accommodation, in which case arrangements must be made by the child's social worker for the appointment to take place as soon as practicable after the placement.
A local authority should assess whether it would be appropriate to appoint an independent visitor for the child they are looking after if either of the following is satisfied:
The local authority should consider the following factors when deciding if it is the child's interests to consider appointing an Independent Visitor.
Where an appointment is considered necessary, the child's social worker will identify a suitable person to be appointed. The Independent Visitor may be a person already known to the child and independent of the local authority who may be suitable.
Before the appointment is made, the proposed Independent Visitor must have been checked with the Disclosure and Barring Service, local Children's Services and Probation records and have the agreement of the social worker's manager. The appointment must be confirmed in writing and the visitor must provide the names of two personal referees
The child must be consulted about the appointment and if they object, the appointment should not be made.
The Independent Visitor will have a duty to make regular visits to the child and maintain other contact, by telephone and letter as appropriate.
The main purpose of the visits and contacts will be to:
On appointing an Independent Visitor the local authority will decide how much information to give them about the child's current situation and history. The child should be involved in deciding what information is made available to the Independent Visitor. Independent Visitors have no right to inspect a child's file. No information should be withheld if it places the child or visitor at risk.
Local authorities should arrange for the preparation of carers and provide them with support and explanation about the role of Independent Visitors.
The Independent Visitor is entitled to recover from the local authority expenses to cover travel and other "out of pocket" expenses. The need for an Independent Visitor to continue their relationship with a young person on an informal basis once they cease to be a Child Looked After should be considered. The local authority should consider if it is appropriate to meet the cost of expenses until the after care responsibilities expire.
The Independent Visitor should also encourage the child to participate in decision-making.
The views of the Independent Visitor should be sought before each Child Looked After Review; they should be invited to the review if the child requests it.
The need to continue with an Independent Visitor should be considered at the Child Looked After Reviews, and the child's wishes and feelings will be the main consideration in deciding the need for the continued appointment.
Only valid for 48hrs