Information for Children’s and Young Peoples Advocacy Providers
Coram Voice has been commissioned by the Department for Education to provide the National Advocacy ‘Safety Net’ and Advice Service for children in and leaving care. This service called Always Heard will deliver the following key service for children and young people in England:
1. Free access to advocacy advice - digitally and Freephone
Our Always Heard team are providing advice to children and young people about their right to advocacy and to have a voice, and their entitlements as they progress through the care system.
Online: We are building on our existing digital self-advocacy tools which currently equip young people with information about their rights and entitlements, how to make complaints and how to navigate the care leaver’s maze. We are also working with our partners at the Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s www.lawstuff.org.uk to ensure that young people have all the information they need about their rights at their fingertips.
2. Gateway to local support - database of advocacy services
Our Always Heard team has built and will be maintaining a national database of all advocacy services for Looked after Children and Care Leavers in England. This will allow young people and others working with them to find and contact their local advocacy service.
Young people are able to locate their advocacy service via our website or contact our helpline service for support to get in touch with their local service.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that we keep this database up to date so that young people and the adults referring them have access to accurate information about who their advocacy service is and what they can do for them.
3. The ‘Safety Net’ – providing critical issue support while making sure local advocacy is available
Sadly as we all know some local authorities place restrictions on advocacy provider’s ability to provide young people involved with Children’s Services with the support they are entitled to. Advocacy providers are sometimes contractually unable to work with young people due to their care status, age, geographic location or simply because there is not enough funding to meet demand.
This is why the Department for Education have commissioned Always Heard, to ensure that there is a national advocacy ‘safety net’. Where young people are unable to access local advocacy we will be contacting local authorities to request that they make arrangements for this service to be provided. When this does not work we will be working with the Children’s Commissioner’s and her Help at Hand service to provide further encouragement for local authorities to resolve the barrier.
We will also be providing the Department for Education and Ofsted with evidence about any gaps in the provision of local advocacy support which will be used to assist them to address systemic barriers to advocacy.
Most importantly Always Heard puts children and young people first and our team will provide emergency ‘safety net’ advocacy for young people with critical advocacy issues until they are able to access their local service.
We must stress that Always Heard is not a substitute for the services that you are providing, or that local authorities should provide, and once a local service is in place we will assist children and young people to take up this support.
How Always Heard can help your services
The team is already assisting young people to contact you as their local advocacy provider. We have also succeeded in persuading local authorities to release additional funds to advocacy providers so that young people can have the support of a local advocate.
We would encourage you to refer children and young people to Always Heard if they contact you but are not eligible for your service’s support. For example you can use our online database to advise a child of the responsible local authority service if they are not looked after by the authority you work in; or refer a young person who you are unable to assist because your service does not work with homeless children or care leavers.
We hope that you will support the Always Heard service by sharing this information with your advocate and other staff. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss any aspect of this service.
About Coram Voice
Coram Voice has provided a specialist Freephone advocacy helpline for over 20 years and we are delighted that we can bring this experience to the new Always Heard service.
Formerly known as Voice for the Child in Care (VCC), Coram Voice has championed the voice of children and young people involved in the care system since 1975. We joined the Coram group of charities in 2013. The Coram mission is to develop, deliver and promote best practice in the support of vulnerable children and young people.
Who to contact
- Local Offer Age Bands
Young Adults (16 to 25)
Primary (5 to 11)
Secondary (11 to 16)