Vulnerable children under 10 could automatically be given advocates

James Joyce

James Joyce - Credit: Archant

Vulnerable children under 10 could automatically be given an advocate to represent their interests when decisions about them are being made, if a senior councillor gets his way.

An advocacy service launched by Norfolk County Council this month automatically gives children aged over 10 and subject to a child protection plan an advocate. However, children under 10 are only offered an advocate if the independent chairman of their case decides it is appropriate.

Now James Joyce, cabinet member for safeguarding children, has said he wants to see automatic advocacy extended to younger children, too.

He said: 'For me, it's not about age, but about that role, and in many ways it's just as important if you are under 10 or over 10. I think the principle of advocacy has to be there for all children, irrespective of age.'

A county council spokesman said: 'James Joyce has asked officers to explore the possibility that children aged under 10 and subject to child protection places are automatically offered another independent advocate (in addition to the independent chair). This work is ongoing and of course includes assessing the possible impact of a different approach on the welfare of the child and our partnership with parents.'

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After hearing the council's statement, Paul Rice, a former Norfolk County councillor who is pushing for there to be no age limit on children who are offered an advocate, said: 'It seems to be that [council officers] are backing down some what, and I'm not too happy about that. My view is that they should look at it properly and not fob people off.

'The cases I have been involved with where independent advocates have been used have been very useful and all the child to open up properly and literally gives the child a voice.'

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