Frequently asked questions about advocacy
If you have questions not addressed here, contact us.
An advocate works for the child or young person; the advocacy process is led by their views and wishes. Advocacy is about supporting, advising and representing a client, and speaking up for them. An advocate may not always speak up for what is in the child or young person’s best interests, but will instead represent what the young person thinks and feels. Advocates for children and young people work to a set of national advocacy standards, published by the Department of Health. If a child or young person you are working with makes a complaint, the advocate needs to be kept informed about how the complaint is progressing, so that they can support the young person and advise them as necessary.
Social services staff do advocate for young people. Every professional, including the key worker, social worker, teacher, or doctor can advocate for a young person.
However, our advocacy service exists because:
a) young people may not feel able to approach other professionals to speak on their behalf for a variety of reasons, such as embarrassment, distrust, or fear
b) if a young person’s problem involves social services, there can be a conflict of interests without an independent advocate
c) it is considered good practice to have an independent advocacy service for looked after children – if most complaints are handled externally, this counters any question of a unit being insular or oppressive.
3. Does Salford Children's Rights Service inform professionals if a young person has been referred, or has made contact?
The short answer is no, not unless the young person wants their advocate to talk to someone else. The service is confidential for children and young people and confidentiality is only breached if the child or young person is at significant risk. Our child protection procedures require advocates to respond to any suspicions or disclosure by passing the matter on to their project manager or, if the young person or someone else is in immediate danger, to the Social Services Duty Team.
4. Do you let social services know if you have sent a child or young person a letter, for a particular reason?
Again the answer is no, although we do send out leaflets to promote the service directly to children and young people. This is required by the National Advocacy Standards. In fact, it is everyone’s responsibility to promote children’s rights and to let young people know that they have the right to access our service.
5. When a complaint is made, does the advocate ask other significant people their views on the substance of the complaint?
No. An advocate does not have to start an investigation or ask anyone from social services their views on a situation, unless the child or young person wants them to. Advocates represent the views, feelings and wishes of children and young people. Complaints are registered and monitored by our Customer Care Officer.
6. Professionals sometimes need support and feedback when a child is involved in advocacy, complaints and representations; some situations leave us feeling anxious. What about social services staff?
We recognise that this process can have an impact on staff. However, our role is to support children and young people, so support and advice for professionals needs to be sought elsewhere.
7. Children and young people are always complaining about small things; won’t they misuse Salford Children's Rights Service as a way of getting at staff?
In our experience this is not the case. Most complaints relate to a breakdown in communication or procedures. We find that when children and young people have not been informed about certain decisions or rules, or not kept up to date with a particular issue, this creates a lot of unnecessary frustration, anger or fear. Lots of complaints can easily be resolved by a letter of explanation or an apology. We cannot stress enough the need to keep children informed.
The most common problem is that they can’t get hold of their social worker. They might need to ask a very simple question which requires an immediate response. Too many complaints stem from the young person feeling frustrated or let down because nobody got back to them.
Some children and young people raise questions that adults feel have been dealt with. The issue here is not that a child may or may not have been given a reason why a decision was made, but that they didn’t understand or haven’t been able to come to terms with it. An advocate’s role here is to speak up for the young person so that the professional can explain the decision again, if necessary.
No. The advocate will check that the child or young person has understood the outcome of a complaint, and give them advice. It is not the role of an advocate to explain decisions that other professionals have made.
Files are created in response to a young person requesting or agreeing to specific advocacy work for a particular issue or problem. The overwhelming majority of the information contained will have been produced together with the young person. Only third party documentation, which is clearly marked as confidential, will be inaccessible to the young person.
12. There are already so many people coming into these young people’s lives – don’t they find advocacy intrusive and confusing?
We want young people to feel that they have ownership of this service, which means we start by educating them about it. They are only involved with the service if they want to be; it’s their choice. We will ask young people what they want or need from the service, and we will continue to develop the service in response to their views.