Please be aware that this section contains information prepared in 2009 and may now be out of date. Some links may no longer work. We are reviewing this section.
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What is advocacy?
All children and young people have the right to have their views, wishes and feelings taken into account when decisions are made about their lives. This legal right is protected in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the Children Act 1989.
Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people. It is about helping children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to adults responsible for making decisions about their lives.
Who needs an advocate?
It can be really difficult for children and young people to make their views and wishes clear. This is particularly true if you have difficulty with communication as you may already find it hard to make yourself understood. If you have autism or Asperger syndrome, you might find it hard to talk to other people about how you are feeling or what you would like to do next in your life.
It is really important that children and young people who have a disability or have difficulty with communication get advocacy support as they are going through changes and making choices about what they want in their life (see the document about Transition in this section of the website). Disabled children and young people are often left out of making decisions about their lives and the use of advocacy is an important way to support a disabled child’s right to participate in decision-making.
Who can be an advocate?
Many different people could be an advocate for a child or young person on the autism spectrum. Some of them are listed below:
• Parent or family member
• Independent advocate or children's rights officer (for looked after children)
• Foster carer or residential worker
• Social worker, teacher, teaching assistant, mentor, youth worker or personal advisor
• Friends or other young people
What will an advocate do?
An advocate will help you, in a way which is most appropriate for you, to make your views and wishes about a situation understood. For example, you might be in the process of deciding, together with your parents, which school would be best for your particular needs. You might be finding it difficult to make your parents understand your views about a school. An advocate could help you do this.
How do non-verbal and less able children make choices?
It is more difficult for non-verbal children and young people (those who communicate without speaking), and those who have more severe difficulties, to make choices about their lives. Not many people have the training needed to help these children and young people effectively and so more work is being done in this area.
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ChildLine: Your rights in a nutshell Some basic information from ChildLine about your rights. ChildLine offers a free and confidential helpline to all children and young people to talk about anything which might be worrying you. 0800 1111
Barnardos: Advocacy services Barnardos is a UK based charity working for children and young people in care. They offer advocacy services for all children and young people in care on a range of issues.
Voice for the child in care 0808 800 5792 Providing advocacy for looked after children.
National Youth Advocacy Service 0800 616 101 NYAS A UK charity providing children's rights and socio-legal services
Action for Advocacy 020 7820 7868 A central information resource for all independent advocacy.
DCSF Quality Protects Information and good practice around those children looked after by councils; in the child protection system; and other children in need.
Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) protect children's rights by lobbying government, bringing or supporting test cases and by using regional and international human rights mechanisms. Free legal information and advice, raising awareness and research. Each year they publish a review of the State of children's rights in England.
Childrens Commissioner for England The Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green leads the organisation called 11 MILLION which works to make sure that adults in charge listen to the views of the 11 million children across England.
Teachernet Includes pointers and good practice examples for advocacy in the context of education.
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Your Voice Your Choice: A Guide for Children and Young People about the National Advocacy Standards
Author - Nicola Wyld
Published by Voice for the Child in Care
Information: A guide aimed at children and young people explaining about their rights, the role of an advocate and the National Children's Advocacy Standards.
National Standards for the Provision of Children's Advocacy Services
Published by the Department of Health
Date - 2002
Information - A standards framework to plan, develop and review advocacy practice for children at all levels.
Get it Sorted: a guide for youg people
Published by The Who Cares Trust
Date – 2004
Information – a guide for children and young people explaining their rights to advocacy as set out in the Government guidance ‘Get it Sorted’
Get it Sorted
Published by the Department for Education and Skills
Date - 2004
Information - Guidance for providing effective advocacy services for Children and Young People making a complaint under the Children Act 1989
Advocacy for Looked After Children and Children in Need
Author - Christine Oliver, Abigail Knight and Mano Candappa
Published by - Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London
Date - 2006
Information - A summary of the key findings of the first national study of children's advocacy in England. The study was prepared for the Department of Health and the DfEs.
Growing Up Speaking Out
Author: Sounds Good Project
Date: December 2005
Information: A guide about community-based advocacy for young learning disabledpeople in transition (14 - 25 years). Sections within the guide go into detail on most aspects of providing advocacy for this age group.
When Will We Be Heard?
Published by The Children's Society
Information: The survey that is reported here was commissioned to further anunderstanding of how advocacy services respond to disabled children.
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Voice for the Child in Care: children's storiesStories of children helped by Voice for the Child in Care – a charitydedicated to helping children and young people have their voices heard.
Shout to be Heard: Stories from young people in care about getting heard and using advocates
Published by: Voice for the Child in Care
Available from Voice for the Child in Care as a booklet – not available online
Transition and advocacy
It is really important for young disabled people to get advocacy supportas they are going through changes and making choices about what theywant in their life. Young people on the autism spectrum can find itvery difficult to cope with change and making choices. For example,dealing with what will happen after school, where to live, what sociallife, and what chance for work or other training? ‘Transitionplanning’, with the help of an advocate, is a formal process from aged14 years designed to plan ahead for the future, with formal meetingseach year.
A young woman on the autism spectrum wasleaving school and did not want to move on to the Further EducationUnit School that was offered to her other classmates. The School,Social Services and Connexions were involved and did not understand herresistance. With advocacy support, it was established that the youngwoman had been in an all male class for years and did not want tocontinue to be the only female. She wanted to move on and have somefemale company. So she left school and starts college in September.
Advocacy for children living away from home
Some children on the autism spectrum may live away from home inresidential care, health settings, residential schooling or fostercare. Many disabled children in residential placements receive fundingfrom social services authorities. Some local authorities treat suchchildren as ‘looked after’ because they are providing accommodation forthem. Other authorities do not see such children as looked after,perhaps because of the stigma and perhaps because parents have notasked social services to provide accommodation. For those children whoare ‘looked after’ by a local authority, the full protections of theChildren Act 1989 apply. Advocacy can provide an important means ofindependent help for children in these circumstances to enable them tomake decisions about their own lives.
A young man with ASD was placed out ofcounty in specialist 52 week education placement and was given ‘lookedafter’ child status. The young man's advocate identified that his SENannual review had not been carried out and alerted the local authoritywho duly brought together the key people to review his educationalachievement and needs. The advocate helped represent the young man inthe process.
Sunfield residential school in Worcestershire – Case study on Teachernet.
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