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An introduction to advocacy

Advocacy is all about supporting children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings, and to help them understand their rights and entitlements.

Article 12 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says all children have a right to have their views, wishes and feelings listened to and respected.

An advocate can:

  • help you to express and communicate your views, wishes and feelings
  • help you understand your rights, entitlements, and options
  • help you understand information and decisions
  • support you if you feel like workers or services are not listening to you
  • help you to be more involved when decisions are being made
  • help you to say if you're unhappy with the support you're receiving or if you would like to make a complaint
  • go to meetings with you or on your behalf
  • represent your views, wishes and feelings and champion your rights and entitlements
  • help to better understand what professionals are saying

Principles of advocacy

You have the right to expect good quality support and to feel listened to and respected by your advocate and the Speak Up Service. All advocates have to work in line with the National Advocacy Standards; these standards help advocates provide you with good quality support.

There are a number of key principles within the National Advocacy Standards.

Child or young person led

Advocacy must be led by the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person. An advocate's role is to act as the voice of the child or young person, no matter what that voice says.

An advocate only acts upon the child's instructions, and does not give their own opinions. This means that accessing advocacy is completely voluntary.

The only exception is to this is when it is necessary to take a non-instructed approach to advocacy - see more information on the different types of advocacy.


Advocacy services must be independent of the social services that the Local Authority provides.

Children and young people must feel confident that their advocate can act exclusively on their behalf and have no conflict of interest when supporting them.


Advocacy must respect the confidentiality of children and young people, allowing the young person to make an informed choice of what they would like to share with their advocate and other professionals.

Confidentiality should only be breached where there is concern that the young person, or someone else, is at risk of significant harm.

Equality of access

Advocacy must be easily accessible to all children and young people entitled to this support. Children and young people must be informed about the service.

The service should be delivered in places that are child-friendly, convenient, safe and private.

Rebalance of power

The advocacy role recognises that in a child's life it is the adults who are responsible for deciding what is in a child's best interests.

Advocacy can help a child or young person to feel valued and to understand decision-making, ensuring that their views, wishes and feelings are taken into account.