Independent advocates (sometimes called children’s rights officers) support individual children and young people to express your views, wishes and feelings and to make and influence decisions about your lives – such as where you live, getting the help you need or how often you see your family and friends.

Advocates help children and young people know about and defend your rights.

They try to get other adults like social workers, doctors, teachers and prison officers to respect and understand children and young people’s views, wishes and feelings.

Advocates must follow what the child or young person wants.

Their job has three main parts:

  1. Advocates listen to you.
  2. Advocates give you information about your rights and options.
  3. Advocates support you to let others know what you think, feel and want to happen.

Advocates do not try and change your mind, or put words into your mouth.

If you are unhappy or worried about something, an independent advocate can help you ask for things to stop, start or change.

Advocates also help children and young people make complaints and get legal advice when this is necessary.

The Getting help section of this website gives information about getting in touch with advocacy services in different parts of England.

History of children's rights and advocacy services

Independent advocacy services for children and young people have existed in England for around 40 years!

They started because many social workers were concerned about children in care having no-one to turn to when decisions were made that weren’t right for them. Advocates could also help stop mistreatment. Coram Voice, once known as Voice for the Child in Care, was set up by a social worker called Gwen James in 1975. It started providing advocacy services on a small-scale from 1977.

Dr Mike Lindsay was the first children’s rights officer in the United Kingdom. He started work in Leicestershire, in England, in 1987. His job was to make sure children and young people in care were listened to and respected, and any complaints they made were treated seriously. Brilliant!

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