The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition is campaigning to ensure that care experienced children and young people, as well as their families, have a statutory right to independent advocacy.
Being in care can be a difficult environment for a child or young person to cope with. They have been placed in care because their families are unable to provide them with the caring, nurturing and in some cases safe environments that they deserve. Many children and young people can find the process very daunting and unsettling.
As highlighted by voluntary organisation, Who Cares? Scotland, which works with care experienced individuals, these vulnerable children and young people experience some of the poorest health, educational and employment outcomes of any group in society. They often leave school early, with no formal qualifications, and are less likely to enter positive destinations such as further/higher education, training and employment.
They are also more likely to experience significant problems on leaving care, such as homelessness, mental health problems, long-term illness, unemployment, or end up in the criminal justice system.
An advocate is someone who provides support to individuals and families accessing information and advice. It supports and empowers the child or young person to be able to express their views and assist them in making informed decisions on matters that influence their lives. This helps them to access rights, the benefits that they are entitled to and guides them to legal advice and through the legal process.
Independent from other services they are involved with, advocates help to safeguard the wellbeing of the individual concerned. They also specifically contribute to the Respected and Included elements of the Curriculum for Excellence’s Wellbeing Indicators.
This support can make a huge difference to the day-to-day and long-term experiences that children and young people have whilst in care, and upon leaving care. It can help them feel like their care is being provided in consultation with them and not something that is being done to them.
We welcome the priority in Plan 21-24 (PDF), arising from the Independent Care Review, that by 2024 all care experienced children and young people, as well as their families, have access to independent advocacy at all stages of their experience of care. Scotland must ultimately aim to ensure that they can navigate the system of care without such extra support
As a coalition, we believe that it is vital that care experienced children and young people, as well as their families, have a statutory right to professional independent advocacy and are committed to delivering this.
For further information on independent advocacy, please visit the Who Cares? Scotland website.