West Sussex Participation, Advocacy and Rights
Programme manager: Rachel Tandy
The West Sussex Participation, Advocacy and Rights (PAR) programme provides essential services to children and young people in the care of West Sussex County Council. We also support those who are leaving care.
We are dedicated to children and young people’s rights and therefore involve them in all areas of the programme's work. We provide opportunities for young people to contribute their ideas, and to influence decisions made within the local authority and The Children's Society.
Protecting the rights of young people in care
Young people in care are amongst society’s most vulnerable children. Since the case of Baby P, there has been a 40% increase in the number of children taken into care by the state. There are 65,000 children being ‘looked after’ by the system. Sadly, these are children who continually have their rights infringed.
Many young people in care are not consulted about matters affecting their lives. Choices are made for them, often without their consent. Some are driven to crime, but the youth justice system is ill-equipped to meet the needs of these vulnerable young people often exposed to bullying, violence and deprivation. They should be treated as children in need rather than criminals.
Disabled children in long-term residential care are often denied the opportunity to express their views, wishes and feelings. They feel powerless, isolated and ignored. Yet they have just as much right to be heard as young people everywhere.
What we do
West Sussex PAR helps young people in care, children in trouble with the law and disabled young people understand their rights, and ensures they are listened to by those who make decisions on their behalf. The programme provides a range of services.
Advocacy and rights service
The service helps children to speak up for themselves and put their own views across. Advocacy means we listen to them first and foremost, and express their opinions, not ours. For example, we might help a young person to:
- make sure their views are heard at meetings where adults are making important decisions about their future
- write letters or participate in the complaints process to improve the services provided by the local authority
- make contact with their siblings
- deal with care proceedings regarding a child of their own.
Independent visitors scheme
Ordinary people volunteer to visit a child or young person in care, befriend them, spend time with them, and take them out to have fun.
Participation makes sure that a young person is involved in decisions that affect them, using fun, interactive games and exercises. They could be involved in designing leaflets, interviewing staff, training social workers, assessing children’s homes, or be on the editorial team of our ‘Rant ‘n’ Rave’ magazine.