The law states that children and young people have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them.
In practice, this is not always as easy as it sounds. Many children and young people need support to speak out or, sometimes, even someone to speak up on their behalf. Some children and young people will turn to their parents, friends or other family members for this support, but for others this is not possible and they will need professional support.
An independent professional advocate will support a young person and make sure their voice is heard when decisions affecting them are being made.
The support to the child or young person will include:
- listening to them
- helping them look at their options
- supporting them to make a decision
- making sure they know their rights
- helping them to have their say.
An advocate will not:
- judge the young person
- tell the young person what to do
- talk to anyone else without their permission.
In what situations can an advocate offer support?
Independent advocates can help young people to get their voice heard:
- in school
- at home
- in care
- in hospital
- in housing
- in Court.
How to get support
Local authorities have a legal obligation under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to provide an independent professional ‘voice’ or advocate for every looked after child and young person, care leaver and child in need of care and support, who wants to take part or comment on decisions about their lives. An independent professional advocate should also be provided if a child or young person wants to make a complaint.
Welsh Government is committed to implementing a National Approach to Statutory Advocacy Services for children and young people. All local authorities were expected to be compliant by June 2017.