22 Apr 2008

100 MPs recognise the importance of advocacy for looked-after children

22 April 2008

One hundred MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to ensure that more looked after children have access to professional independent advocacy*.

The Early Day Motion (EDM), tabled by Joan Humble MP, attracted cross-bench support, demonstrating the commitment within Parliament to ensuring that some of Britain’s most vulnerable children have access to a professional who will represent them when decisions are being made about their lives.

Joan Humble MP comments: “I thank the 100 MPs who have signed the EDM in support of advocacy for looked after children, and urge all MPs to sign up. I have seen for myself the enormous difference that advocates can make to the lives of looked after children, and particularly those with disabilities.”

The Children’s Society and Voice are leading a campaign on behalf of The Children’s Advocacy Consortium for The Children and Young Persons Bill to give looked after children the right to access independent advocacy when important decisions are being made about their lives. Without advocates, many looked after children have no say over their care and little control over their lives.

Chris Osborne, Policy Adviser on Disability for The Children’s Society, comments: “Looked after disabled children cannot wait any longer for advocates. MPs clearly recognise the vital role advocacy plays- now the Government needs to act to ensure that the Children and Young Persons Bill includes a right to advocacy for these vulnerable children”.

John Kemmis, Chief Executive of Voice, comments: “Empowering looked after children to have a real say in decisions about their lives through representation by a independent professional advocate can bring about better outcomes and potentially longer term savings for society as a whole. This Bill is the last opportunity for Parliament to consider this crucial matter for quite some time”.

Research (1) from The Children’s Society indicates that disabled children and young people are denied access to vital advocacy services. A quarter of advocacy providers surveyed reported that they had not been able to respond to a referral from a disabled child between April and December 2006.

Children and young people are joining the campaign, by meeting with and writing to their MPs about the importance of advocacy. The Children’s Society and Voice are also calling on their local campaigners and supporters to email their MP to ask them to sign the EDM. Further information on how to do this is available on The Children’s Society’s and Voice’s websites.

Media enquiries and further comment: Rachael Bruce, The Children’s Society Media Office, Tel: 0207 841 4422/ 07818444038

Notes to Editors:

  • * Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people. Advocacy is about empowering children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes heard at all times. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and feelings of the children and young people to decision-makers and helping them navigate the system (2).
  • The Early Day Motion reads:
    That this House is concerned that looked-after children are still not routinely involved when key decisions are being made about their lives; recognises that access to professional independent advocacy empowers children to have their views taken seriously, keeps children safe, leads to better decision-making and improves children's outcomes as a result; and calls on the Government to ensure that more looked-after children have access to professional independent advocacy.
  • A large group of organisations working with looked after children including The Children’s Society, VOICE, Barnardo’s, BAAF, BASW, BILD, CCNUK, Children’s Legal Centre, The Children’s Trust Tadworth, Contact a Family, CRAE, EDCM, the Early Childhood Forum, Family Fund, First Up!, The Fostering Network, Kids, A National Voice, NSPCC, NDCS, NCB, NCH, NYA, NYAS, Scope, The Together Trust, TreeHouse, Tros Gynnal, The Who Cares? Trust, and Youth Access are campaigning for a statutory right to Independent Advocacy for looked-after children.
  • The Children's Society is driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. It provides vital help and understanding for those forgotten children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else. Visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk and www.voiceyp.org.

(1) The Children’s Society (2007) When will we be heard? Advocacy provision for disabled children and young people in England.

(2)  Para 1, National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services, DoH, 2002