Disabled children and young people missing out on vital advocacy services

26 September 2011

Advocacy for disabled children and young people can lead to considerable improvements for them and their families, yet many are missing out on this vital support, says a new report from The Children’s Society.

 ‘Someone on our side: Advocacy for disabled children and young people’ is the outcome of a three year study exploring advocacy services for disabled children and young people in England.

The research has found that disabled children and young people often face barriers in accessing advocacy, even though they have a right to express their wishes and feelings when decisions are made about their lives. Lack of awareness around the role of advocacy means many young people are missing out on this vital form of support.

Other barriers include a lack of resources, specialist services and training opportunities for advocates.

The report found that advocacy was often only commissioned when cases were extremely complex and had reached serious levels of concerns. In some cases professionals felt that disabled children and young people were unable to express their views, yet the charity has seen first-hand the benefits of advocacy, however complex a need the disabled child or young person may have. 

One disabled young person said: 'My advocate is brilliant. His is a big support for me. He’s always been there for me, he listens to me.'

The charity has also produced a guide for commissioners, which looks at the legal framework for the provision of advocacy to children and young people and the benefits of a good advocacy service. The charity is urging local authorities to ensure that access to advocacy is available for disabled children whether they live at home or in residential care. 

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Our research takes an in-depth look at advocacy in England. Alarmingly, it seems that advocacy is still not being seen as a priority, but as an ‘add on’ to the care of a disabled child or young person.  

'The role of an advocate is unique. They are entirely different from other professionals in a child’s life. For disabled children, some of whom do not use speech to communicate, advocacy can make a tremendous difference to their quality of life. The provision of advocacy is vital in enabling them to express their views.'

Ends

For further information please contact Lorna Harris in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4424 or via email Lorna.harris@childrenssociety.org.uk

 
Notes to Editors

  • Advocacy is speaking up for children and young people ensuring that their views and wishes are heard and acted upon by decision-makers. An advocate works closely with a child, helping them in expressing their wishes and feelings when decisions are made about their lives.
  • Through the survey responses it is possible to estimate that across 30 advocacy services in the six-month period August 2008 – January 2009, only 529 referrals of disabled children were accepted (88 per month).
  • The charity surveyed 35 different advocacy services in England and interviewed disabled children and young people as well as advocates, parents, carers and professionals and it found that advocacy can improve the wellbeing of the child or young person and can lead to improvements in services.
  •  Say ‘Hello’ to the national year of communication. Further information available here http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/news-item/2011-say-hello-national-year-communication

The Children’s Society is a leading national charity, driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. We provide vital help to the most vulnerable children, young people and families in our society through a range of services. Our services include helping young people to access legal services as well as supporting them through the legal process when no-one else will.
 

Full research and executive summary available from www.childrenssociety.org.uk http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/someone_on_our_side_summary.pdf