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Child Protection Advocacy 

Image described in caption
A light orange text box, surrounded by purple spots, on a light green background with a child-like hand drawn pattern. Text reads: "Child Protection Advocacy". In the right corner, there is a drawing of a family playing basket-ball

When child protective services become involved in the care of a child, a parent might find the engagement difficult to accept and understand. The processes of these services can be confusing and frightening, even more so for many Disabled people.

For example, parents with disabilities may struggle to care for their children due to their own care needs not being met, or they may have cognitive disabilities which makes the involvement of child protective services in the care of their child harder to understand and engage with.  

This is why it is important that Child Protection advocacy is available and offered to parents with disabilities. To learn more about this form of advocacy, we interviewed one of our Advocates, Josh, who recently joined our Advocacy Team.  

How would you explain advocacy?  

“Advocacy is supporting someone to ensure that their voice is heard. It is working with them to understand any difficulties they may have in sharing their views, exploring what these views are, and coming up with a plan as to how best to get their points across.” 

How does Child Protection advocacy work? 

“We work with families who are currently subject to Child Protection (CP) or Child in Need planning. Initially, we meet with parents to discuss how advocacy could benefit them, and we complete a Client Advocacy Plan. Although this plan is tailored to each client, generally it consists of actions such as helping to prepare and share views during meetings (e.g., Child Protection Conferences and Public Law Outline [PLO] meetings) and helping to go through meeting minutes, plans, and assessments. 

“Typically, we start helping clients with meetings by speaking with them beforehand, bullet-pointing what their views are and how they want to share them. We will go through any CP plans and PLO letters and ensure that any additional points are raised in the meeting. We will then attend the meeting with the client, either in person or virtually. Some clients don’t feel comfortable speaking in meetings and ask that we express their views, and they join in as they are able. Others like to take the lead and we ensure that nothing we have spoken about prior is missed. Finally, following the meeting, we will catch up with the client to ensure they have understood everything. 

“When it comes to Child Protection advocacy, our aim is to promote a client’s attendance at important meetings relating to their children while helping to reduce any worries or anxieties they might feel walking into said meetings. It can feel daunting being the only non-professional in a difficult situation; the hope is that, by providing support and advocacy, clients feel assured that their views are being heard and that decisions are being made with their views in mind.” 

What do you think is most valuable about advocacy?  

“A lot of the time, our clients have small support networks. This can be due to many reasons, such as having a small family, having to flee to a new area due to domestic abuse, or families not wanting to get involved in Child Protection Plans. This can leave parents feeling disempowered and without anyone to share their worries with. 


“I think that knowing that someone is on your side to ensure that your voice gets heard is very important to our clients. Even if we can’t achieve the outcome a client wants, as an advocate, it feels good knowing that we helped ensure that their views were fully represented, and we gave them the best chance possible.” 


How does your experience as a social worker benefit your Child Protection advocacy?  

“Children’s Social Care’s systems and processes can be very confusing to anyone who is not a professional within the field. For example, there are many terms that are used in working with Children’s Social Care, such as ‘Section 20’ or ‘Section 47’, which mean a lot to a professional, but might elude anyone not exposed to the Children Act. Moreover, outside of an initial explanation, it is rare a Social Worker will explain these terms to a client over again. Having that prior knowledge of Social Care processes, thresholds, and acronyms ensures that I have a clear understanding of exactly what the local authority is worried about in terms of protecting a child, and with this understanding, I can ensure the client knows exactly what their situation is. 

“Having worked with parents previously, I also understand what kind of frustrations they can face in trying to get a clear picture of why a Social Worker is involved in their lives. This lack of clarity can make it difficult for parents to know what they want to say prior to meetings, leaving them ‘on the spot’ when it comes to the actual meeting, meaning they often struggle to fully express their views. Some Disabilities can make this more difficult, for example ones that impact communication, memory or auditory processing.  

“A lot of the time with Child Protection, Child in Need (CIN) plans will expect actions of parents. They will also feature actions that professionals need to undertake. If a professional hasn’t completed an action, their client might find this difficult to call out due to the power dynamic in place. It takes a team to support a child; I know the importance of everyone doing their part and am happy to question professionals as to when actions will be completed if they are failing to keep to timescales.” 


What do you like most about your job? 

“I like working with clients to understand their situation and come up with a plan that is truly theirs, which will hopefully serve as a template for them to apply to any difficulties they may encounter in trying to share their views in the future.” 

If you’re Disabled and you think a Child Protection advocate may be of help to you, you can learn more about our services here.  

A big Thank you to Josh Penney, for taking the time to explain his superb work as an Advocate at Equal Lives!

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