Call for advocates to make sure children are heard

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The National Children's Bureau (NCB) is calling on the Government to give children the legal right to an independent advocate at child protection conferences.


This is to ensure that in cases where harm, neglect and abuse are suspected, a child's views will be properly listened to.

In the NCB analysis, Time to listen: Independent advocacy within the child protection process, official research identified that in a number of case studies where the child suffered death or serious injury, the children's views were not heard.

It recommends that the Government amend the Children and Families Bill 2013 to ensure that all children going through child protection conferences are entitled to an independent advocate. The aim is to ensure that children feel more in control of the process and are able to understand it better.

Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the NCB said, 'Too often inquiries into serious child protection failings have found that children were not asked about their views and feelings. Giving these very vulnerable children an advocate who can support them to share vital information during the child protection process is essential if lessons are to be learned and failings are to be avoided in the future.'

'By ensuring the child's opinions and experiences are heeded, and providing a direct means through which they can have their voice heard, we can help children feel involved and empowered during what can be a highly distressing process. In order to effectively protect our children it is vital that their voices are listened to.'

Research has also found that advocacy in child protection had positive effects for children, reporting that the participation procedure itself was therapeutic. Participation led to better decisions and tailored services for the child, and the advocacy helped to keep them safe.

 Independent advocates are skilled practitioners who support children to express their experiences and views.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) will launch the analysis on 15 May. The APPGC is run by the NCB whose members include more than 100 peers and MPs who want to keep up to date with children and young people's issues.

The analysis can be read here

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