Advocacy and Independent Visitors


  1. Children’s Commissioner and Advocates
  2. Duties of an Advocate
  3. Independent Visitors
  4. Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

1. Children’s Commissioner and Advocates

All children should have access to independent advice, from an independent Advocate and should be provided with information about how to contact the Children’s Commissioner.

In relation to advocacy, managers must ensure that each child has access to an Independent Person whom they may contact directly about personal problems or concerns at the home (such as an Advocate, adult family member, Personal Adviser, befriender, Independent Visitor, or mentor).

The person can represent or assist a child at a meeting (for example a Looked After Review), assist in making a complaint or bringing a matter to the attention of staff and managers or the Regulatory Authority.

2. Duties of an Advocate

An Advocate’s key objective is to promote children and young people’s central involvement in decisions affecting their lives. The nature of support advocacy provides varies considerably as it is dependent upon each local authority’s commissioning arrangements but every service follows core principles

  • The advocate should not be directive or judgmental but help the young person to express their views;
  • Young people should be offered full information in expressing their views;
  • Young people should decide upon the best course of action.
The advocate should always remain fully supportive of the young person.

3. Independent Visitors

The placing authority must appoint an Independent Visitor where it appears to them that it would be in the child’s best interest to do so. This should be considered as part of the development of the Care Plan for the child or as part of a review of the child’s case.

Where an appointment is considered necessary, the child's social worker will identify whether there is a person already known to the child and independent of the local authority who may be suitable. If there is not, each authority will have its own procedures for appointment.

Independent Visitors must be suitably qualified and have undergone necessary checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service and Children's Services records.

The child must be consulted about the appointment and if he or she objects, the appointment should not be made.

The Independent Visitor should undertake regular visits to the child and maintain other contact, by telephone and letter as appropriate with the aim of

  • Promoting the child’s development, social, emotional, religious and cultural needs;
  • Encouraging the child to exercise their rights and to participate in decisions which will affect them;
  • Support the Care Plan for the child and their carers; and
  • Aim, as far as possible, to complement the activities of staff.

The Independent Visitor’s role and functions can also be described in terms of what they are not intended to do, e.g.:

  • Not to be anything other than child-focused, however sympathetic to other points of view;
  • Not to be a substitute parent or carer;
  • Not to allow personal prejudices to determine actions;
  • Not to accept unquestioningly what those responsible for the child tell them but to remain open-minded, curious and even sceptical;
  • Not to engage the child in intensive counselling involving complex situations; and
  • Not to take on the role of a skilled advocate in complex situations (see paragraph 3.270, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review).

In Hull, Independent Visitors are provided by Change, Grow, Live.

4. Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

Under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, the IRO has a responsibility to monitor the child’s case in between Looked After Reviews.

For example:

  • The IRO should be notified within 2 working days of a child becoming Looked After;
  • Children should be told who their IRO is and how to make contact with them;
  • The IRO must be consulted before a child is placed outside the area where the child normally lives;
  • The IRO should be notified and consulted if a child persistently goes missing from the home;
  • Children have a right to contact their IRO if they are concerned about their placement or Care Plan.

Home’s managers should be aware of this wider responsibility and should ensure that children are informed of their right to consult or notify the IRO; and home’s managers should also consult the IRO if they are concerned about the child’s placement.