Making Sure Our Young People's Voices Are Heard; Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, Outlines the Importance of Children's Advocacy Services

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Making Sure Our Young People's Voices Are Heard; Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, Outlines the Importance of Children's Advocacy Services


Byline: Gwenda Thomas

GOOD advocacy can have a profound effect on the lives of children and young people and we must be certain we are doing all we can to make advocacy services in Wales as accessible and effective as possible.

An advocate is someone who helps a child or young person to speak up for themselves.

This can include explaining, empowering, representing and helping them navigate complex systems and procedures.

Advocacy is an essential element in supporting children and young people, to make sure they are heard and have the best possible support to overcome the challenges and barriers they experience in their lives.

While advocacy provision has come under some criticism, and there is work to be done, we must remember that there is some innovative and ground-breaking work being done in Wales. We must continue to provide leadership, direction and support to local authorities, health boards and advocacy providers.

Wales is the only country in the UK to extend advocacy to be available 24 hours a day to all children and young people through Meic the national advocacy and advice helpline. Meic doesn't replace the statutory duties that sit with local authorities and health boards. They are still required to provide independent professional advocacy for groups of vulnerable children and young people. This is backed up by statutory guidance setting out how we as a government expect this duty to be put in place.

This guidance must be implemented at a local level. Children and young people who are eligible for local advocacy services should know about advocacy and understand what it means. They should also know how to access it and feel confident in doing so, whatever their concern.

In April 2011 the Children's Commissioner reviewed independent and professional advocacy services for looked after children and young people, care leavers and children in need. He looked at how well these services are safeguarding and promoting the rights and welfare of these vulnerable groups.

Missing Voices, the report that followed the review, was published in March last year. Many of the developments I've mentioned here are in response to the recommendations, and useful progress has been made but there remains more to be done by government, local government and our partners in health and the third sector.

The first all-Wales advocacy conference took place recently in Aberystwyth, highlighting the importance the Welsh Government places on advocacy in safeguarding vulnerable children and young people. …

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