Advocacy and Independent Visiting
Advocacy and Independent Visiting are great avenues of support that are available to you, but what are they exactly?
So, what is advocacy? Well, put simply, advocacy means having someone to help you deal with some of life’s difficult times; it means getting your views heard when decisions are being made about your life!
Advocacy is the process of one person helping another to represent their views. The person giving the advice is called an advocate, and they will help you to be actively involved in decisions that affect your life. This could be by either helping you to say what you want to say yourself or will represent the issues and views on your behalf – only after first ensuring that they have been fully briefed and understand the issues, of course!
When there are decisions that will affect you, advocates can help you to choose what you want to happen, and they can also give you guidance on how you can make your views clear to adults so that they recognise your wishes and feelings.
Advocates are totally independent, which means that they’re not employed by any Health or Social Care services. And the really great thing is that they are trained to know the law and to be able to talk with you sensitively and honestly – so they’ve got the tools to help empower you to build a better future.
If you aren’t happy with your experience of any Health or Social Care service and you want to make a complaint about it, you can refer yourself to one of the following two local advocacy services below.
The National Youth Advocacy Service
Devon County Council commissions advocacy services from the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS for short).
If you are a Devon child in care age 4-18 or a care leaver (up to age 25 years old) and you want support with getting your voice heard about something you would like to stop, start or change you can call NYAS on 0808 808 1001 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will complete a referral to the Devon service for you.
Alternatively, ask your Social Worker or Personal Advisor to make a referral to NYAS for you. This service is also available if you are privately fostered, if you are adopted and you are experiencing difficulties with your adoptive family and if you are a Devon child in care or care leaver but you live in a different part of the country.
Devon Information, Advice and Support
Also known as DiAS, Devon Information, Advice and Support can offer you advocacy support:
- If you are a young person with special educational needs or a disability and are 16 and 25 years old.
- If you are in the process of moving from Children’s to Adults’ services.
- If you are the parent or carer of someone who is in such a situation.
In any of these cases, call DiAS on 01392 383000 and ask for ‘Devon Information, Advice and Support’. Alternatively, you can email email@example.com or ask your Social Worker to make a referral to Devon Advocacy Consortium for you.
If you have little or no contact with your family and would like an adult friend outside of the care system, that’s where Independent Visiting comes in.
An Independent Visitor (IV) is someone who will build a long-term, supportive relationship with you. They can give you advice and help get you involved in hobbies, sports, social or educational activities. They are there to listen to you and for you to have fun with. You could go to the cinema, go bowling or just take a walk in the park – whatever you enjoy!
To have an IV you need to be aged between four and 18. And your IV is just for you and no-one else! They will make regular visits and keep in touch by email, phone or letter. And, importantly, IVs aren’t paid to be with you – they want to be with you for you!
They are not carers or social workers, and what you talk to them about won’t get passed onto other people unless there are good reasons to do this – like you or another child may be at risk of harm.
How do I get an IV?
If you would like an IV, you should talk to your Social Worker or Independent Reviewing Officer. It can sometimes take a little bit of time to find the right IV for you, but that’s because we want to make sure you’ll get along. All IVs are given training and are background checked as well, just to make sure they’re safe. Our IVs in Devon are provided by NYAS, and there’s a special code of conduct that you and your IV need to stick to.
When we think we’ve found someone who would be a good IV for you, we’ll contact you and talk to you about them. If you then want to meet them, we will arrange to bring the IV to your home to meet you and to see if you like them. And if you both get on, you can arrange to meet again.
Someone might be your IV for a few months or many years – just so long as you are both happy and able to keep seeing each other. And if you’re unhappy with your IV, or simply decide that you no longer want one, just let us know.