Professional family advocacy

Since 2003 we have pioneered an independent professional advocacy service for families involved with child protection services nationally; this has included service provision at child protection conferences in four London Boroughs. We have advocated for families who find it difficult to engage with statutory services, including those who have previously had children removed from their care and are mistrustful of statutory intervention; asylum seeking families; and young care leavers. We have supported families at different stages of their involvement with Children’s Services including children in need; advocating for parents from the stage when child protection enquiries were initiated until the first review conference; and within the complaints process.

What we offer

We offer a service to London Children’s Services Departments, who can spot purchase (buy in) a professional advocate to work with a parent or family member or enter into a partnership arrangement with us.

At present and until the end of March 2012 we are also continuing to provide an advocacy service for some families in 3 London Boroughs in ‘entrenched’ situations (where children have been subject to a child protection plan for over 12 months and there is a breakdown in the working relationship between the local authority and parents). This work is in part funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation.

What is the impact of professional advocacy?

We have commissioned independent evaluations of our professional advocacy service.

The latest evaluation found:

• 97% of parents and family members felt that our advocacy service had been helpful and

• 46% felt it had made a difference to the outcome of their case.

(Fraser C and Featherstone B, Evaluation of Family Rights Group’s professional advocacy service (2011)

The evaluators spoke to parents, social workers, case conference chairs, and heads of service.

How we work?

The service was initially developed and piloted using the Protocol on Advice and Advocacy for Parents in Child Protection Cases (developed by the University of Cambridge with funding from the Department of Health) as a model. We continue to base our service on this Protocol – our advocates are highly qualified lawyers, social workers or advocates with comparable experience.

Our Protection of Children and Confidentiality Policy describes what information we keep confidential and what information we can’t keep confidential. So that we avoid any conflict of interests when working with families our advocates will not represent a family member if another family member is already a client of the team in connection with the same problem/issue. For details see our Conflict of Interest Policy.

Codes and Standards

In 2009 we published national family advocacy standards with other stakeholders. Service users and key stakeholders were involved in drafting the Code of conduct for professional advocates and Professional Advocacy services, principles and standards.

Training

We offer training courses to suit workers who may advocate for parents and families involved with child welfare services, such as mental health adult support workers, to enable them to have a more detailed understanding of child welfare law and child protection procedures and the suitable skills to advocate in child protection processes.

Advocacy network

We want to develop a national advocacy network of voluntary organisations who provide advocacy to parents involved with child welfare services. We envisage twice yearly meetings, and electronic discussion forums. If you would like to express an interest in joining the Advocacy Network, please complete our Expression of Interest Form or if would like more information, please contact Sandra Atherley, Advocacy Development Officer email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .