Hello Rochdale! - Our New Children's Services We are delighted to announce that we will be providing free and independent advocacy support for children and young people in Rochdale from April 2019. It is our second win in Greater Manchester, having launched in Trafford last April. Advocacy is vital for children and young people who may often have decisions made on their behalf. This can be for children who are in care or for any child who may be undergoing Child Protection Plans. CEO of Advocacy Focus, Justine Hodgkinson, says: “We are passionate about helping children and young people have a say in the things that matter to them. Our Advocates will champion the rights of young people and ensure that every young person’s voice is heard, valued and at the centre of any decisions that affect their lives." “Often, children in care or who may need protecting from harm have decisions made for them and the system can actually forget to do something as basic as ask them what they would like to happen. We are there to ensure they get the opportunity to communicate their thoughts, needs and wishes.” The contract will see Advocacy Focus deliver five core services to the region including the Provision of Children’s Rights, Children’s Advocacy, Care Leaver's Advocacy, Independent Visitor and Missing from Care Return Interviews. Justine continues: “It is vital that children and young people feel supported and as though they are in control. Children who feel listened and supported are more likely to be honest about things like abuse or things that are affecting them. We all want the same goal – to protect children from harm and ensure they are safe, advocacy gives an opportunity to deliver an outcome that suits everyone from the social workers to the person at the centre of the decision.” The move will also see lots of new opportunities for residents of Rochdale to get involved, from volunteering positions to employment opportunities. Justine finishes: “We are excited to start supporting those who need it in Rochdale and make a difference to children and young peoples’ lives.” What services will we be providing? Children's Rights Helpline [0300 303 4170] Our Children’s Rights Helpline provides important information for children and young people and protects their rights whilst in care. We support children who may be faced with a problem and need some advice. They may be confused about something and don’t know what to do. They may even want to complain and don’t know how. They can ring our helpline for advice about their rights and advocacy support. Independent Children’s Advocacy We'll be providing high quality, industry-renowned advocacy for children and young people to ensure they are involved in important decisions about their lives. Many children who are looked after in care or who are in the child protection system often have choices made for them; we exist to ensure they have a say about the care they receive. Our ultimate goal is to ensure all children are happy, healthy and safe. Care Leaver's Advocacy Our Care Leaver's Advocacy service will focus on supporting children aged 16+ leaving the care system. It is essential that during such an important time that young people feel supported and are aware of the options they have as they make the transition to independence. As they approach adulthood, this can be a very stressful and confusing time and leaving care can be very daunting, we’re there to make sure that they receive the support they need and the outcome they desire. Independent Visitor This is a volunteer led programme which pairs looked after children with a volunteer mentor. Independent Visitors visit the children and help to guide, inspire, befriend and listen to them. An Independent Visitor can be a hugely valuable individual in a child’s life and can often be the only person who is not paid to be there for them. Children who feel they have someone who is genuinely looking out for their best interests feel they can communicate more openly and effectively, and thrive being in an environment that fosters trust and mutual respect. Missing from Care Return Interviews Emulating our successful Return to Care Service in Bradford, we will also be supporting children who have run away from care in Rochdale. This is an essential service that seeks to help understand why a child has run away and one that helps to keep them safe and prevent them from running away in future. Our Return to Care Coordinator can be the only person a child trusts to speak up for them and work independently on their behalf. We are looking forward to extending our high quality support to Rochdale and to start making a difference to the lives of young people in care. Check out our new Children and Young People's Section here.