A consortium of children’s charities has made a plea to the
government to include an amendment to the Adoption and Children
Bill that would strengthen the ability of children in care to use
the complaints procedure.
In a letter to health ministers Jacqui Smith and Lord Hunt,
consortium member John Kemmis, chief executive of Voice for the
Child in Care, called for the government to include two clauses
which would entitle children in care and care leavers to an
independent advocate when they want to complain.
Research by the organisation in 1997, How Do Young People Get
Their Voice Heard?, found less than 25 per cent of children had
made complaints about their care and of those just half were
Legal and policy offer at VCC Nicola Wyld said: “I think these
figures suggest that for a lot of children the process was too
difficult.” Many children lacked the confidence to complain because
of perceived repercussions, she said, adding: “They need to be
supported to use the process.”
While the government accepted that children in care and care
leavers had a right to complain, they were reluctant to legislate
until the outcome of two consultations on advocacy, which are
looking at national standards, was known. One of the consultations
ended this week.
But Wyld said: “What we are saying is that if they don’t
legislate now we will have missed the boat. There is no reason why
they could not defer its implementation until after the
She dismissed Jacqui Smith’s concerns that the proposed
amendment would insist that the advocate was independent,
preventing children from using family members or friends as
advocates. “We are not saying that children cannot choose their
advocate. Of course young people should have choice,” she said.
She said the consortium would like to see government funding for
an independent advocacy service.