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Empowerment’s Blackpool Children and Young Person’s Advocacy team talk to Karolina from Article 39

Tell us a bit about your service and the groups of children and young people you support.

Blackpool Advocacy Hub has held the advocacy contract for Blackpool for nearly three years but children and young people’s advocacy was only a small part of it. However, over the past 12 months the team has grown and in April 2019 we were given additional funding for two full-time posts for children and young people’s advocacy. We have also received funding from Headstart Blackpool for a Youth Engagement Apprentice. In May this year, due to demand for the service, we were given additional funding for a third advocate.

The service is available to children and young people who want to make a complaint or representation about the service they are receiving. We support children in care and care leavers, children receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, children with special educational needs and/or disability in transition to adult services and those in transition from child to adult mental health services.

You are a relatively new service. What are your goals and aspirations for the next 3-5 years?

Wow, what a question! We would like to make sure that we embed advocacy as a crucial service within Blackpool children’s social care, to be a service that is thought of instinctively. In order to do this we are constantly raising awareness amongst social workers and before the pandemic we were heavily involved with the innovative Blackpool Rocks programme to stay up-to-date with Blackpool Council’s new practice model.

We want to continue to reach the children and young people of Blackpool to support them in getting their voices heard and to raise greater awareness of advocacy amongst organisations who work with children. Hopefully, now that we have a bigger team, we will be able to support a greater number of children.

Additionally, we will be striving to improve the service we offer by continuing to co-produce resources with the children and young people who access our service. The list could be endless…Invite us back next year and we will tell you how we get on!

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an advocate?

Firstly, knowing that children and young people’s lives are changing for the better due to the work we do getting their voice heard and that they get to have a say on decisions made about their lives that concern them. Secondly, building trusting relationships with children and young people so that they know you are there for them and that you are independent of other services.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an advocate?

Sometimes making contact with other professionals is the biggest challenge as the role of an independent children’s rights advocate is not fully understood. Additionally, making contact with children and young people and their parents can be difficult as they have so many professionals involved. We have to make sure that they know we are working alongside them to get their voice heard and that we are not a ‘part of the system’.

Which law or parts of the law do you most frequently use as an advocate?

As advocates we refer to numerous law and guidance. The main ones that come to mind are the Children Act 1989, the Care Act 2014, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010 and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.

Based on what you hear from the children and young people you work with, what makes an excellent advocate?

Last year we held focus groups with children and young people accessing the service. They told us they felt that an advocate was someone who they can trust and rely on to help them have their voice heard and who will listen and not judge them. They said that they feel empowered when we tell them that they have rights and when the advocate is knowledgeable about children’s rights. They feel that an advocate is someone who will ask questions on their behalf, provide accurate information, and help them understand professional jargon so that they can make informed decisions or choices.

For more information about Blackpool Children and Young People’s Advocacy please contact the team on: 0300 32 32 100

For more information about the Children and Young People’s Advocates Network please contact Karolina Kozlowicz on karolina.kozlowicz@article39.org.uk or click the link here

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