After holding a successful roundtable in June where participants shared expertise and ideas around non-instructed advocacy with children & young people, SIAA hosted a follow up event that took place online on Wednesday 2 November.

The roundtable was attended by independent advocacy organisations, members from Scottish Government and children’s rights organisations. This roundtable was particularly relevant for independent advocates that work with children and young people, in the Children’s Hearings system or families. Selwyn McCausland (Barnardo’s) shared the definition of non-instructed advocacy for the children’s hearings system and Vicky Wan (Children’s Parliament) talked her work on ‘How professionals can make rights real’.


Defining Non-Instructed Advocacy for Children and Young People key discussion points

Here is a summary of the key points that were discussed at the roundtable:

Defining Non-Instructed Advocacy

  • Selwyn McCausland reported that focusing on the Children’s Hearing System has uncovered a lack of understand within a hearings context as to what non-instructed advocacy is.
  • A working group has been formed from the Network to work on a definition as there is a clear misunderstanding between non-instructed advocacy and the role of the safe guarder in the hearing system. The group has developed a clear definition of non-instructed advocacy which has been broadened to include under 5s and those with complex communication needs.
  • The paper also includes a brief section on consent; key aspects of non-instructed advocacy including relevant legislation and guidance, allocating sufficient resources, and a template Children’s Hearing report to ensure consistency and approaches to non-instructed advocacy
  • The work also explains the differences between a non-instructed advocacy worker and safeguarder and the differences between a non-instructed advocacy worker and children’s rights officer.


Children’s Parliament Project

  • Vicky Wan shared a project conducted during 2021 entitled, How professionals make rights real, which gives thought to how an organisation’s workforce can implement the UNCRC in the rights-based approach.
  • The project involved four primary schools over a period of ten to twelve months.  An investigations approach was used whereby children were invited to become investigators.  The task for this project was to create a range of resources which would be helpful for professionals to realise children’s rights in everyday life:
    • Children’s parliament does not heavily rely on written work;
    • Children express ideas openly through various forms of creativity using colours and paintings, for instance;
    • When we talk about human dignity with children we put our hand on our heart as it is often a concept which even adults find difficult to put into words;
    • A barometer is used to explore why human dignity being ignored or depict scenarios where human dignity is being upheld;
    • Work in teams to ensure participants are not isolated;
    • Often use a third person scenario, particularly when children talk about a traumatic experience;
    • Role play is used to express their own experiences;
    • Playdough and plasticine are used to sculpt experiences; and
    • Any written work is always in the children’s words.
  • Children involved in the project interviewed professionals about their views and experiences on children’s rights.  The children composed questions and met several professionals including a member of the Police, an MP, a park ranger and a learning assistant.  The positive conversations allowed professionals to reflect on their own practice.


Break-Out Groups discussion

Participants were split into groups to consider the three following questions:

Q1.  How does the Children’s Hearing definition work across independent advocacy in Scotland beyond the Children’s Hearing?

  • Working from a set of rules where each service can rely upon would raise less questions about non-instructed advocacy, especially for those who do not understand independent advocacy.
  • There is a line between non-instructed and instructed advocacy as well as concerns about making assumptions or misinterpretations.  Guidance would be helpful on taking multiple approaches and not relying on observation alone.
  • Agree with the idea of a shared language and having a clear definition for providers, referrers and panel members.  Panel members must be confident on what is being presented in order to make well informed decisions.
  • Some participants did not support a separate definition as a national Child Hearing policy will fit all.  Any reference to a rights approach should also link into the human rights approach.  It was recommended adopting the FAIR model – Facts, Analyse, Identify Review.

Q2.  What are the challenges of non-instructed advocacy for under 5s?

  • Time is needed to properly gather views and spend time with children rather than receiving referrals a week or two before the hearing.
  • Participants acknowledged the huge responsibility of conducting non-instructed advocacy within the years of 0–5.  It is important for advocacy organisations to act responsibly and avoid taking on anything which is not within their skill set.

Q3. What guidance is needed and what could SIAA do to support non-instructed advocacy for children and young people?

  • More resources and child development training are required.
  • Additional support and training for staff is essential particularly as they are working across a wide range of ages and needs.  Training for the panel is also a concern as reporting on a 3-year old’s view is not the same as considering the views of a 10-12 year old.
  • A particular skill set is required, and further training is needed.  Participants proposed shared learning and bringing other professionals in to support learning.  Participants tied this concept in with The Promise where if someone had a particular style and approach which has been successful, how this carries through into adult service.
  • Training and a shared national guidance policy is required.  Care must be taken to record work accurately and to present evidence to either show how the conclusion has been arrived at or to allow the Panel to make a decision based on observations and the content.  The Panel should be adequately trained in child development, attachment, adverse childhood experience, infant observation, and understanding cues and miscues.
  • There should be a good team around the child approach and further work is required to raise awareness of non-instructed advocacy across the board.


Next steps

  • Allow time for the National Providers Network for Advocacy in Children’s Hearings working group to complete its work.
  • Create a subgroup to progress work in non-instructed advocacy for children and young people.
  • Contact SCRA to ensure they understand the difference between independent non-instructed advocacy and a safe guarder.
  • Develop national guidance using the five pillars framework, new infants rights pledge and infants voice work.  NM confirmed that she would share with this group the guidance developed by the Infant Mental Health Subgroup of the Prenatal Programme Board and would pass on her line manager’s details.
  • Provide training and develop skills and knowledge.  SIAA will hold a wider discussion with membership on training during the Development Day on 30 November.
  • Stay true to the principles of independent advocacy and exercise care to ensure observations are accurately interpreted.
  • SIAA will work with membership to update national guidance to align with the non-instructed advocacy work already done.
Scroll to top