An evaluation of independent advocacy services

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Summary

Having prominent adults as allies has been shown to have a positive impact on the lives of children and young people. Utting (1997) acknowledged the need for ‘looked after’ children to have access to independent advocacy in the Safeguarding Review, which had considered abuse of children in residential care. He drew a direct link between the stigmatisation of looked after children, the denial of their rights to participation, and their vulnerability to abuse. He commented that, “looking after them (children in care) would be easier and much more effective if we really heard and understood what they have to tell us.” Since the Utting report (1997) there has been a growth in advocacy services but this has not been matched by knowledge on its use or effectiveness.

A review of the literature on advocacy (Oliver 2003) highlighted the need for research in a number of areas. Despite the rapid growth in the number of services there have been few attempts to systematically describe the range of services. There is also little known about the characteristics of those who ring asking for help. It has been suggested that some groups of children e.g. disabled children and those with communication difficulties have less access to services. Reviews of the research on advocacy have highlighted how little attention has been paid to its impact. This study aims to fill some of these gaps in knowledge. The first phase of this study will use administrative data to establish a profile of service users and the second phase will examine the effectiveness of services from the perspectives of different stakeholders.

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