'Advocacy can be life-changing': An advocate shares her story

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From our programme in Lancashire, Nafeesa shares what it is like to be an advocate, and explains the benefits of young people's voices being heard.

I work at Lancashire Children’s Rights Service as a children’s rights worker. I work directly as an advocate with children and young people who are being looked after by the local authority. The youngest person we are working with at the moment is eight years old, but we have advocated for children as young as two years old in the past.  

Advocacy can be life-changing. I have seen first-hand the difference it brings to a young person. I deal only with children in the care system and for many of these young people this support is the only way they get a real say in decisions that are made about their lives, whether that be access, parent contact and placements, or not being heard. 

No two days are ever the same. One day I will be arranging appointments, the next driving across to see a young person, attending meetings or reviews. Even though some of the young people I work with have been placed by the Lancashire local authority, it doesn’t mean they are placed in Lancashire - so I drive across the region and beyond to see young people. 

'It is great that the value of advocacy is being highlighted'

Our referrals come from a variety of sources -  they can come  through a social worker, a carer or a local authority – or the young person themselves. The first thing we would do is contact the young person to make sure they know what advocacy is. The work I do is for them, nobody else, so they must fully understand and be involved in the process. 

Advocacy really does make such a difference to the lives of children and young people. They have someone working with them, and only them, to make sure they have as much of a say in their lives as possible. Many children and young people do not realise they can make a complaint directly to a local authority until they are told this by an advocate. 

I have also seen advocacy help unravel very complex and unique situations. It is such a rewarding job. It is great that the value of advocacy is being highlighted in the report. The key is getting it out there to the children and young people in care, who may not know that these services exist.

By Nafeesa, Children’s Rights Worker for Lancashire Children’s Rights Service

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