A day in the life of an advocate
My day begins in the office, checking emails from the previous day as I was out of the office in the afternoon. Finally, a long-awaited complaint response has arrived. It’s good news for my young person, Salli, who has been awarded compensation because her previous foster carer failed to open a savings account for her. I know Salli is in college this morning, so look forward to sharing the news with her at lunch time. Salli has been feeling anxious and depressed following a generally bad experience in foster care, so I hope that this news will help to boost her self-esteem.
I have a Looked After Child review this afternoon so I phone Milo to finalise our discussion about the issues that he wants me to raise for him. Milo has been out of school for 2 months since being expelled for fighting with another child. He is frustrated at the slow progress in finding him a suitable school. He also wants more contact with his sister who lives a couple of hours away in the Midlands. Although his social worker keeps promising to talk to his sister’s social worker about this, Milo tells me that nothing ever happens.
During the rest of the morning I make phone calls to Children’s Services on behalf of some of the other young people I am working with. It is hard to reach many of them, so I send emails to those who I need to contact most urgently. I phone to update those young people who I know to be free, and make a note to call the others tomorrow when I will be in the office after school hours. I then attend a meeting with our legal adviser to discuss a complaint I have written on behalf of a young person who is homeless. I am advised that my complaint should be sent in, with a few minor adjustments to strengthen my argument that Children’s Services should be taking responsibility for her.
After lunch, I prepare to leave the office for Milo’s review but, just before I leave, I receive a call from a Duty social worker to tell me that Milo’s reviewing officer has been taken ill so the review has been postponed. I call to break the news to Milo who is really upset as he knows this will lead to further delays. This brings to a head how dissatisfied he is with his social worker and he asks me to ask his manager if he can have a new worker. I tell him that I will call the manager, and I suggest that we could ask for a meeting as this may be a more effective way for Milo to be heard. Milo is happy with this idea and asks me to arrange a meeting as soon as possible. I call the manager and leave her a message.
The Helpline is very busy today, and I am asked to help out with a couple of calls. Towards the end of the day, I take a call from a social worker wanting to refer her client, Adam. She tells me that Adam has lived in 15 different placements, and has a persistent history of running away which started when he was 9 years old. The social worker is keen to find him a suitable placement but Adam refuses to talk to her. I explain that we will need to speak Adam so we can put forward his wishes and feelings. I am left feeling quite sad about a young life spent running away, and wonder if any mental health support has been put in place to help him. I hope we speak to Adam soon and that a solution can be found so that he starts to feel safe and settled, both within himself and in a placement, so he no longer has to keep absconding and placing himself at risk.
I am struck, once again, by how affecting our work is, and by the importance of robust and early intervention by Children’s Services to support the needs of the young people who we work with.
It’s been another busy day at Coram Voice, time to head home and relax!"