Participation - finding out what difference it makes
Practice site 7: The Visiting Advocacy Service in Secure Children's Homes (VOICE)
1. Characteristics of service users involved
Young people in secure children’s homes.
2. How service user participation within the organisation is ensured
VOICE (formerly Voice of the Child in Care) operate a visiting advocacy service within a number of secure establishments to provide independent support to young people who wish to raise concerns about their care or make representations. Advocates visit on a regular basis either weekly or fortnightly and become familiar and trusted persons, seen as independent of both the secure units and social services departments. A key feature of their involvement with the young people is a high threshold of confidentiality.
3. What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?
It is important to distinguish between the policies in the secure establishments and those of VOICE itself. VOICE has an overall ‘blueprint for activity’ which aims to:
- focus on the child in everything we do
- promote good relationships with family, friends and professionals
- recognise that children and young people are competent and have the capability to work in partnership with adults
- argue that the bureaucratic processes that have become associated with the care system have to be minimised and adapted, if we are to serve children as individuals, and promote their sense of identity.
4. How are service users supported?
The secure advocacy project provides advocacy visitors for young people who are in secure accommodation, supporting interventions on their behalf.
5. How are the effects of participation monitored, audited, and evaluated?
The service has developed an exit interview as an approach to evaluating the advocacy service, as well as reviewing the young person’s experience in the unit. In theory all young people are able to contribute to the exit evaluation, although unforeseen moves or releases from custody at court appearances mean that not all young people participate. The exit interviews operate in three secure units at present and developments in other locations are underway.
6. A particular example of participation making a difference
Representations to the visiting advocacy service resulted in a substantial change in policies regarding telephone contact in one establishment. The managers saw the process primarily as one part of the unit’s involvement of young people in the service they receive.
7. Contact details
Contact person: Ian Storr
Address: Suite G15, Redlands Business Centre, 3/5 Tapton House Road, Sheffield S10 5BY
Telephone: 0114 266719
Web address: www.voiceuk.org.uk