FOR youngsters facing the prospect of appearing before a children’s panel, the backing of a volunteer to fight their corner is invaluable.
Barnardo’s Scotland’s Hear 4U’s child protection and advocacy service makes sure the views of youngsters are heard and that decisions affecting their future are clearly explained, options discussed and an appeal launched if necessary.
James Bond actor Daniel Craig, a supporter of the charity, has given the advocacy service his backing and took time out to visit youngsters who need someone to stand up for them.
The Scotsman’s Christmas Appeal is supporting Barnardo’s Scotland, the charity which works to give vulnerable children and young people a better future.
The charity has 122 projects across Scotland helping over 14,500 youngsters. Its projects range from fostering and adoption to outreach work going into schools teaching pupils how to safeguard themselves against predators on the internet
But Barnardo’s Scotland needs to raise £3 million each year to continue with its work.
Barnardo’s Scotland’s Hear 4U makes sure youngsters are aware of their rights under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Children Scotland Act (1995) and related legislation.
“William” called on the services of an advocacy worker after family breakdown meant his future was to be discussed at a children’s hearing.
There were concerns for his safety after it emerged that his parents were using drugs and could be involved in drug dealing.
The advocacy worker met William and listened to his views before preparing a statement to be presented before a children’s hearing.
“Lots of people come into my house but I like it when it is quiet. Some of the people who come into my house frighten me and they are my mum and dad’s friends,” William said. The case is continuing.
Hear 4U operates in Dumfries and Galloway, Renfrewshire and South Ayrshire representing children and young people from the age of five to 17 – and sometimes 25 – who may be in the child protection system, attending children’s hearings or be in residential and foster care.
Selwyn McCausland, children’s rights and advocacy manager, said advocates play a key role both in building a relationship with the child and understanding the dynamics within the family.
“Advocacy is one of the core aspects of Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child,” Mr McCausland said.
“Article 12 states ‘children and young people have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account’.
“Meetings can be very formal and daunting for anyone, so imagine what it must be like for a child. The numbers of adults at the meetings varies but quite often at child protection meetings there can be ten adults in the room.
“The advocate’s role is to put forward the views of the child.” Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Independent Advocacy plays a central role in protecting children.”
• To find out more contact 0141 8847896 or see www.barnardos.org.uk/hear4u