Advocacy Western Isles’ Children and Young Persons Independent Advocacy Project was established in 2006 and was the first independent advocacy service for children and young people in the Western Isles and has been instrumental in embedding the use of independent advocacy with children services in the Western Isles. In 2008 the project was applauded by the Children’s Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland. A report called Sweet 16? The Age of Leaving Care in Scotland went before the Scottish Parliament and stated, “One of the ways Managers can learn about any misunderstandings or failures in their policies is by setting in place effective advocacy arrangements that will help any problems to surface. The development of advocacy for young people through Western Isles Advocacy is to be commended.” Also a scoping study into Advocacy support for children and young people was commissioned by the Scottish Government and published in 2010. The title for the report, “Advocacy makes You Feel Brave” is a quote from a young person who used the services of Advocacy Western Isles, acknowledgement for this is published in the report that was presented to the Scottish Parliament.
Children & Young Persons Advocacy
Children and Young Persons (CYP) Independent Advocacy
Advocacy Western Isles provides one to one Independent Advocacy, Collective Advocacy (groups) and Non- instructed Advocacy as required for Children and Young People age 0 to 18 who experience disadvantage and adversity in the Western Isles.
Children and Young Persons Advocacy makes sure young people have good knowledge of their rights and that their rights are upheld. Advocacy ensures young people have their voice heard, are listened to and are involved in decisions that are made about them. Advocacy will support young people to ask questions regarding their situation and support young people to tell people what they really think.
How is Your Voice Heard?
This is achieved through using a range of age/ability appropriate tools enabling young people to speak up and be heard. Views are gained and recorded in a way that is the choice of the young person such as DVD, mind-mapping, letter format (own or Advocacy Worker’s work) and life-story work. Young people will have the choice to attend meetings, speak themselves or have an Advocacy Worker speak on their behalf, this can also be shared as instructed by the young people – all the time helping young people develop their communication skills and confidence. The Advocacy Worker always remains loyal to the young person throughout all processes, with the young person having control and final say over any plans of action and how to proceed. Advocacy will ensure young people feel safe when communicating with people in positions of authority. Through working with Independent Advocacy young people will develop a good sense of justice and fairness. They will also be better able to understand the processes they are involved in, gain a sense of control managing their own situation and hence demonstrate sustained engagement and involvement which will lower levels of anxiety and stress.
What Difference can Independent Advocacy Make?
Young People will become interested in the formal processes they find themselves in. Advocacy ensures young people are listened to in a meaningful way and that their contributions are noted and acted on where appropriate. Consequently agencies are better informed to make better assessments, decisions and provision of services. Advocacy safeguards young peoples rights, giving support to ensure service provision is made based on the need and not the provision that is available.
Non Instructed Advocacy
Where young people have severe and complex needs the Advocacy Worker also works alongside parents/carers with the focus always on the young person involved, upholding their rights and supporting parent/carers to do so also. Advocacy gives young people and their parent/carers the backbone, confidence and tenacity to challenge/request and ensure services received are suited to the needs of the child and their families. Advocacy also ensures siblings affected by disability have a voice and a recognized need in the family unit.
Children and Young People and families have reported;
“My Advocacy Worker has been my back bone and supported me amazingly.”
“When I needed help, I have had the peace of mind knowing advocacy would be there to walk side by side with me and take all the stress away or lighten it.”
“I have got a bigger voice”
“People want to listen to me now.”
“I feel I want to get up in the morning and change things.”
“Without AWI the school would not have realised the extent of my health problems. It was as a result of my Advocacy Worker attending meetings and speaking up on my behalf that my life became slightly easier. She always gave good advice and without her help things would’ve been horrendous. Everybody needs an Advocacy Worker!”
Children and young people are able to come to Advocacy Western Isles with any issue and will be able to work with a skilled and experienced Advocacy Worker who will have a knowledge of their rights and will be skilled in exploring and agreeing with young people how to use their rights.
Type of Issues Children and Young People Have Used Advocacy Support For:
- Additional Support Needs for Learning – young people may need extra help in school due to their circumstances and or a disability. This may include issues such as; Do you qualify for a Co-ordinated Support Plan (legal document saying what help you can get), Classroom inclusion, School exclusion, Disabled Access, 1-1 auxiliary support, school transport
- Placing Requests to island and mainland specialist schools
- Transitions – changing school/classes and going from using children services to adult service
- Referrals to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland – support engaging with mainland services and legal throughout processes
- Childs Plan Assessments – document written all about you and what help you need
- Respite provision
- Disability Discrimination
- Contact and Residency – young people have a say about contact during family break up.
- Accessing health services
- Second opinions for medical diagnosis
- Feel not treated fairly
- Access knowledge of children and young people’s rights
- Access to legal services (island and mainland) and support maintaining engagement.
- Children’s Panel