CAPS provides independent advocacy to children and young people aged 5-18 in East Lothian and Midlothian who are experiencing the Children’s Hearings system. In some situations, we can also provide advocacy to children and young people from Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.
A Children’s Hearing is all about the child. Lifechanging decisions affecting a child or young person can be made at a Children’s Hearing. This may involve decisions about where they live or who the child or young person is able to have contact with, so it is important that children and young people get to say how they feel and what they want to happen.
A CAPS advocacy worker can attend the Hearing with the child or young person to support them to have their voice heard. We have supported children and young people to take part who have never been to their Hearings before. Advocacy helps make sure that the Panel understands children and young people’s views so they can take them into account fully when making these important decisions in children’s lives.
Independent advocacy workers are independent from everyone else and only work for the child or young person experiencing the Hearings system.
CAPS Advocacy workers have seen how, over time, working with advocacy can result in children and young people becoming more confident to speak up and take part more in their Hearings. Many young people don’t want to attend their Hearing at first or might ask their advocacy worker to speak for them entirely. After working with advocacy for a while they may start to feel more comfortable speaking to the Panel themselves, with their advocacy worker beside them. One young person we supported even gave their views directly to the Sheriff in court.
Since the service launched in September 2020, CAPS has had around 60 referrals and our team have worked with over 30 different children and young people. Some of them are now starting to come back to CAPS for a second time when a review Hearing is called, showing the importance of advocacy to the children and young people that we work with.
We’ve been able to show that Children’s Hearings advocacy makes a difference. Now it’s a case of growing awareness of that difference and spreading the word so that more children and young people know about and can access our service.