Our Services St Helens Advocacy Independent Children's Advocacy Supporting children and young people in St Helens to become more involved in important decisions about their lives. 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 in St Helens and ensure that every young person’s voice is heard, valued and at the centre of any decisions that affect their lives. What is Children’s Advocacy? Advocacy is vital for children and young people who may often have decisions made on their behalf. This can be for children who are going through child in need or child protection proceedings, who are in care or who are leaving care. 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. What is the role of a Children’s Advocate? Our Independent Advocates can: Communicate the wishes and feelings of a child or young person Attend decision making meetings with the Local Authority, social services or school Uphold their legal rights and human rights, ensuring that they are fairly treated Easily explain information or processes that are happening in a way they understand Assist them in making a complaint or in challenging decisions Signpost to relevant services and ask questions to the relevant person on the child or young person’s behalf National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services 2002 In 2002, the Department of Health released national standards for all advocacy providers and those providers involved in all decision making processes for children. They state: Advocacy is led by the views and wishes of children and young people Advocacy champions the rights and needs of children and young people All advocacy services have clear policies to promote equalities issues and monitor services that ensure no young person is being discriminated against due to age, gender, race, culture, religion, language, disability or sexual orientation. Advocacy is well-publicised, accessible and easy to use Advocacy gives help and advice quickly when they are requested Advocacy works exclusively for children and young people Advocacy services are confidential Advocates to listen to the views and ideas of young people to improve the service provided Advocacy services must have an effective and easy to use complaints procedure Advocacy services must be well managed and good value for money. Are children and young people entitled to an Advocate? Children and young people do not have a legal right to an Advocate but certain situations do specify a need for an Advocate such as for children who are in care. The Children Act 1989 gives children and young people who are in care the right to make representations and complaints to the Local Authority about their care arrangements. Here, an Advocate can help guide the child through the process and act on their behalf to communicate their needs and wishes. Why do Children and Young People need an Advocate? It is vital that children and young people feel supported. Children who feel listened to 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 - and advocacy gives us an opportunity to deliver the best outcome for everyone involved.