A new report launched yesterday by The Children's Society reveals that stronger statutory guidance is needed to make sure that every child in the care system has access to independent advocacy.
The role of an independent advocate is to make sure that children in care have their views heard and acted upon. An advocate works directly with the child, giving them the opportunity to make their opinion known when it comes to decisions about their lives.
The report finds that at the moment, children and young people in care are experiencing inconsistency across England in getting advocacy help which can have a massive impact on their lives.
Some of the most vulnerable groups of children, including disabled and very young children too often experience the greatest difficulties when accessing advocacy services.
The charity, which runs nine advocacy services across England, reviewed 142 cases and found that providing children with this support can lead to stronger care placements, boost educational attainment and have other enormous benefits.
The report looks in detail at the availability and impact of independent advocacy on the lives of children and young people and evaluates its cost effectiveness. It reveals the short-term cost of investing in this area - on average £31 an hour - often leads to significant longer term savings to local authorities and other public bodies.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children's Society, said: "Through our work we know that when advocacy works well it can have a significant benefit to a child's life, playing a crucial part in their future success and happiness. It is a life-changing tool.
"This report shows that statutory obligations on local authorities are inadequate, resulting in significant inconsistency in young people's access to an independent advocate. We would like to see the national advocacy standards revised and guidance published for local authorities on how best they can support these. It is vital that children and young people are informed on their right to advocacy when they enter the care system."
The Children's Society found that just under half of cases they assessed involved children and young people with special educational needs and/or a disability. It also found that that placement, taking part in their reviews and leaving care were the issues that children and young people most frequently expressed their need for support.
The charity conducted a review of services from a practice base, looking at the services provided and how advocacy plays a crucial role in the well-being of children and young people, especially those in care who often have decisions made about their lives without being consulted. It also looks at the financial implications and how advocacy now could save local authorities money in the long-term.