Someone speaking on your behalf
Sometimes it helps to have someone else who can speak on your behalf and represent your interests, especially in formal situations or when you don’t feel very confident. A person who speaks on your behalf in this way is often called an ‘advocate’.
Advocates can help you get your views or wishes across about the issues which are important to you, such as the care or medical treatment which you receive, or the management of your finances.
Advocacy doesn’t always have to be provided by paid professionals. Often people take a friend or family member with them to important meetings with doctors, social workers or other professionals, to give them moral support and to speak up on their behalf.
If you do have a legal right to an advocate then the person who acts as your advocate could be a relative or friend whom you are happy to have supporting you to speak – this person is known as an ‘appropriate individual’.
But the following people should not be considered by your council as an ‘appropriate individual’
- Someone who you do not want to support you
- Someone who is providing care or treatment to you on a professional or paid basis
- Someone who is unlikely to be able to, or available to, properly support you to express your views
- Someone who has previously been found to have abused or neglected you, or has previously failed to stop other people abusing or neglecting you
Alternatively there are organisations that can arrange for a professional advocate to be with you at a meeting, or to contact someone on your behalf. A professional advocate will know about your rights, and about the options which should be made available to you, and will make sure that your views are properly heard.
For children in care or involved in child protection proceedings advocacy is provided by Route1 Advocacy, for those using adult social care with no access to suitable friends or family as advocates an advocacy service is provided by SWAN Advocacy. You can find out more about finding your own advocate on the Mind website.
Route1 is a Somerset service offering short-term volunteer advocates to children and young people in care, children involved in child protection proceedings and specific groups of other vulnerable children and young people.
A child or young person can have a Route1 advocate when
- There is a meeting about child protection
- There is a Child Looked After Review
- A Child Looked After or Care Leaver wishes to make a complaint
- There is a Family Group Conference
- A child or young person has run away from home
- A child or young person who is looked after wants advice or assistance
Any meeting where adults are talking about or making decisions about a child can be scary. Advocates make sure the child’s views and feelings are heard and that the adults involved know about them.
In many cases someone involved will ask you if you would like one. If not, a child or young person can ask for one themselves. You can contact Route1 Advocacy on 01749 822801 or you can fill in an Advocacy Referral Form
Route1 also trains, supports and supervises Independent Visitors for children in care and mentors for children and young people at risk. These are long term sustained relationships aimed at making a significant difference to the lives of vulnerable young people. All Route1 volunteers complete a training programme and an assessment procedure.
If you are aged twenty or over and interested in becoming a Route1 volunteer, phone 01749 822801 or email Route1Advocacy@somerset.gov.uk