Spotlight On The National Youth Advocacy Service
2019 saw the 30th Anniversary of the Children Act 1989 as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) National Helpline.
Over the last 30 years there has been a great amount of improvement in the welfare and lives of children, one that NYAS looks to maintain and expand, providing independent advocacy and legal representation to children across England and Wales.
“Like the Children Act 1989, NYAS has stood the test of time. We played a part in helping to bring about change in 1989 and we intend to continue to push for more positive changes around children’s rights in the years to come.” – Statement by NYAS founder and trustee Judith Timms OBE
Many in family law who work with children will have encountered NYAS and will acknowledge the work they do, enabling children to have a voice and feel they are being heard.
“Every child and young person has the right to be heard.
“Every child has the right to feel safe.
“Every child has the right to be involved in decisions being made about them.”
This is the mission statement of NYAS and is at the core of everything they do as a charity.
All the services they provide are formulated around the child-centred principles set out in the Children Act 1989 and the UNCRC, in particular Article 12, which is the right for a child to be heard and involved in decisions that are made about them.
The UNCRC is an international human rights treaty granting children under the age of 17 a comprehensive set of rights, that was ratified by the UK in 1991.
The helpline run by NYAS allows children in care, that do not feel like they are being listened to or involved in decisions regarding themselves, to speak to an advisor who can inform them of their rights and support them to improve their situation.
72% of the over 30,000 calls to the helpline each year were requests for advocacy support, 23% of these were directly from children, the rest coming from professionals and carers on behalf of the child.
With over 350 independent advocates in their network, it allows for children across England and Wales the opportunity to ensure their rights are upheld and their views, wishes and feelings represented.
The service can also provide independent legal representation so a child’s best interests are represented in legal proceedings. Legal representation extends to children who’s parents are separated and there is a dispute over where the child is to reside or time spent with parents or siblings.
As well as legal representation for the child in dispute cases, NYAS also runs contact centres in Birkenhead and Liverpool, providing a safe environment for families to maintain or re-establish relationships. The NACCC accredited contact service also allows for other family members, such as grandparents, to maintain relationships with children.
Another service offered is that of an Independent Visitor; a trusted adult volunteer who befriends and develops a long-term friendship with a young person in care. Carefully matching a child to the volunteer, it allows a young person to develop new skills, interests and hobbies, as well as a continued relationship in what can be a turbulent life or living situation.
NYAS has helped thousands of children over last 30 years and there is no doubt they will continue to help thousands more through continued positive changes by running campaigns such as “Missing the Point”, which will give runaway and missing children from care a voice.