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3.1.12 Youth Advocacy Project (YAP)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The Youth Advocacy Project (YAP) is an in-house advocacy service for particular groups of children and young people in Brighton and Hove. YAP helps children and young people to speak out, be heard and know their rights.

‘Advocacy safeguards looked after children and young people and protects them from abuse and poor practice.’ (Jacqui Smith, MP Minister for Social Care).

‘Children and young people spoke very highly of the support provided by voluntary sector advocacy services which they describe as critical in helping them to disclose abuse and harm’  (The Munro Review of Child Protection 2011).

Protocol for Social Workers and other Professionals Working with the Youth Advocacy Project


Contents

  1. Service Information
  2. National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services (2002)
  3. Role of the Advocate
  4. Who We Work With
  5. Advocacy and Confidentiality
  6. Advocacy and Representations / Complaints
  7. Collective Issues
  8. Accountability


1. Service Information

The Youth Advocacy Project (YAP) is an in-house advocacy service for particular groups of children and young people in Brighton and Hove. YAP helps children and young people to speak out, be heard and know their rights.

Children and young people can self refer via email, mail or phone or in person. Parents, Carers and Professionals can refer via the same methods, ideally with the young persons consent.


2. National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services (2002)

YAP works to the National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services (2002). The standards set out the core principles that children and young people can expect from professionals providing advocacy services. YAP works to these standards to ensure that out work/service is governed by a recognised and accepted framework for Advocacy.

The ten standards are set out below:

  • Standard 1: Advocacy is led by the views and wishes of children and young people;
  • Standard 2: Advocacy champions the rights and needs of children and young people;
  • Standard 3: All advocacy services have clear policies to promote equalities issues and monitor services to ensure that no young person is discriminated against due to age, gender race, culture, religion language disability or sexual orientation;
  • Standard 4: Advocacy is well-publicised, accessible and easy to use;
  • Standard 5: Advocacy gives help and advice quickly when they are requested;
  • Standard 6: Advocacy works exclusively for children and young people;
  • Standard 7: The advocacy service operates to a high level of confidentiality and ensures that children, young people and other agencies are aware of its confidentiality policies;
  • Standard 8: Advocacy listens to the views and ideas of children and young people in order to improve the service provided;
  • Standard 9: The advocacy service has an effective and easy to use complaints procedure;
  • Standard 10: Advocacy is well managed and gives value for money.


3. Role of the Advocate

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 are heard at all times. It is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to be decision-makers, and helping them to navigate the system.

Advocates are not part of the multi agency professional network for children and young people. It is not the advocate’s role to promote the “best interest” of a child. The Advocates role is to amplify the issues and concerns raised by children and young people. Advocates do not judge, give our opinions, or influence young people. Advocates help young people communicate with the professionals and service providers involved in their care. Advocates help young people secure their rights and entitlements.

Professionals should not prevent children and young people from accessing advocacy support. If a Guardian as litem is involved with a child or young person, this should not preclude an advocate’s involvement (if a young person has requested an advocate).

Advocates:

  • Support young people at meetings and to have a say in decisions that are made about them.  We will attend LAC reviews, Child Protection Conferences, PEP’s etc;
  • Help young people sort out difficulties with their Foster Carer, Social Worker, School, Housing, Benefits, Court etc;
  • Give young people information and help them to think through their options including possible consequences;
  • Offer support to young people who wish to make a representation or complaint;
  • Take up individual and collective issues;
  • Visit children and young people in their own home, foster care, children’s homes, schools or where is most comfortable for them;
  • Inform young people and social work teams/education/health services about our service;
  • Promote children's rights;
  • Consult with young people in policy development;
  • Ensure that Senior Managers in BHCC know what issues young people are dealing with.


4. Who We Work With

  • Children in Care Age 5-18;
  • Care Leavers up to the age of 21;
  • Children subject to Family Group Conference Service;
  • Young People up to 16 in Secure Accommodation;
  • Children with Disabilities receiving shared care;
  • Children and young people who are the subjects of safeguarding procedures;
  • Young Parents under 18 whose children are subject to safeguarding procedures;
  • Children and young people who are the subjects of safeguarding procedures.


5. Advocacy and Confidentiality

YAP Advocates have a duty to explain our confidentiality policy fully when starting to work with children and young people. This should include the following:

  • What confidentiality is;
  • Why we might need to share information;
  • Process of sharing information, which enables the full involvement of the young person.  (For example, encouraging and supporting young person to share the information themselves).

This process will help the young person understand the advocates role more clearly and will also give them choices about their information. It may be necessary to refer back to the policy frequently with young people and with professional colleagues to ensure that their understanding continues throughout the work that is done. 

Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance (2010) highlights the necessity of sharing information to protect children if there are concerns that they may be at risk of significant harm. The guidance specifies the roles and responsibilities of statutory and other agencies in ensuring children's protection. Section 10.5 states that:

  • Children and families may be supported through their involvement in safeguarding processes by advice and advocacy services, and they should always be informed of services that exist locally and nationally. Independent advocates provide independent and confidential information, advice, representation and support, and can play a vital role in ensuring children have appropriate information and support to communicate their views in formal settings, such as child protection conferences and court proceedings.

Advocates are duty bound, by the National Standards, to be transparent and open in the way that they work. Advocacy Standard 1.6 clearly states:

  • Advocates provide an open service - ensuring that no information they have or action they take is hidden from the young person.

Thus, the advocate must clearly state their position on information sharing before professionals give any information about the young person or their situation. Advocates must give colleagues and professionals this information so that they can ensure they are not sharing information that is not for the child or young person.

Advocates are not at liberty to pass on 3rd party information to young people without the consent of that third party. At all times advocates must be sensitive about how and when information is passed on to young people.


6. Advocacy and Representations / Complaints

YAP works closely with the complaints team at BHCC. Here is a link to their pages:

  • A child or young person has the right to an advocate when making a representation or a complaint. Local Authorities need to consider how best to promote the complaints procedure and the child’s right to an advocate. The law states:

The Advocacy Services and Representations Procedure (Children) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 states:

Information to be provided to a complainant etc.

4.
  1. Where a local authority receive representations from a complainant they must:
    1. Provide him with information about advocacy services; and
    2. Offer him help in obtaining an advocate.
  2. Where a local authority become aware that a person or child intends to make representations under section 24D or, as the case may be, section 26(3) they must:
    1. Provide the person or child with information about advocacy services; and
    2. Offer him help in obtaining an advocate.

DfE guidance to local authorities, ‘Getting the Best from Complaints’ (Section 6.5, p. 28) states:

If the complaint is about a proposed change to a care plan, a placement or a service, the decision may need to be deferred (frozen) until the complaint is considered. However, care should be taken if deferring a decision is likely to have a significant effect upon the mental or physical wellbeing of an individual.

The decision to defer should normally be made through detailed discussion and risk assessment between the Complaints Manager and the manager responsible for the service, within the context of the work being undertaken with the child or young person. Decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but there should generally be a presumption in favour of freezing, unless there is a good reason against it (for example, if leaving a child or young person where they are would put them at risk). In cases where decisions are met with opposing views, advice should be sought from the appropriate Director in the Local Authority.


7. Collective Issues

YAP collects information about the types of issues and complaints that young people raise with us. We share this information with senior managers at BHCC to inform policy and practice development. We try to encourage young people to be at the forefront of any issues and we support them to communicate, as a group, to decision makers. 


8. Accountability

Anyone wishing to make a comment or complaint about YAP can speak to the Pod Team Manager in the first instance, or the Quality Assurance and Advocacy Manager, or the Head of Safeguarding. (contact details at beginning of chapter).

End