Children and young people have a legal right to be heard, and to be involved in decisions made about them and their lives. 

An advocate can support a child or young person to share their views and help to make sure that their rights are respected. Advocates, and advocacy providers, are independent of organisations that arrange and provide health and social care services, so that children and young people can trust them to represent their views without conflict. 

Independent advocacy offers one to one support and representation for children and young people. These include children and young people who:

  • are in the care of Dorset Council (DC) 
  • are leaving the care of DC
  • are involved in child protection processes 
  • are a child in need 
  • want to make a complaint
  • are placed in an unregistered setting 
  • are placed in a setting deemed inadequate by the regulator 
  • are served notice by their placement 
  • are at risk of criminal exploitation 
  • are homeless aged 16 or 17 years old 

Other situations where you can use an advocate

Most advocacy needs in Dorset are covered by the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) but in the following situations there are other organisations who provide this service:

  • any child wishing to complain about NHS services can use an advocate when the complaint is made, and through the process
  • any young person aged 16 or over eligible for an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) can use an advocate when the child becomes eligible
  • any young person aged 16 or over eligible for an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) can use an advocate when the child becomes eligible
  • young people with SEND in transition to adult services who have advocacy needs as set out in the Care Act can consider advocacy at the first transition planning meeting when they turn 14
  • young carers over the age of 16 who may need support in adulthood can consider advocacy before the first Young Carer review after they become 16

When to use an advocate 

Advocates listen to children and young people and support them with specific issues. This helps make sure that the young people have a voice and that their views are heard and taken into account when making decisions.  An advocate is especially helpful in the following situations:  

  • you're unhappy, angry or upset with your care 
  • you feel you haven't been fairly treated 
  • no one's telling you what's happening about your care or your situation 
  • you don’t understand what choices and legal rights you are entitled to 
  • you would like support to have your views, wishes and feelings listened to and respected 
  • you would like help to have a say in the decisions being made about your life 
  • you would like to understand your situation and why certain decisions have been made 
  • you want help to prepare for a meeting  
  • you would like someone to attend meetings and reviews with you or attend on your behalf 
  • you need someone to speak up for you and challenge any decisions you want stopped, started or changed  
  • you want to make a complaint 

How is an Independent Advocate different to an Independent Visitor?

An Independent Advocate tells children and young people about their rights, helps them to speak up, and ensures they have a say in all decisions that are made about their life. An Independent Visitor is there for a long-term friendship. 

Make a referral for independent advocacy 

We've commissioned NYAS to provide independent advocacy services for Dorset. This is a free service for children and young people who meet the criteria listed above. Anyone working with a child or young person can refer including the young person themselves. 

If you are a child or young person and would like to refer yourself for advocacy

If you’re working with a child or young person

National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)