Advocacy for disabled children and young people: benefits and dilemmas
Recent policy has emphasized the need for advocacy services for children and young people, developments that have gone hand-in-hand with greater levels of participation of young people in decision-making. Advocacy for disabled young people is especially important, as they are a particular vulnerable group and have, traditionally, been even more excluded from decisions about matters affecting their lives. This paper reports the findings, as they relate to disabled young people, from a study that investigated the role of advocacy for looked-after children and children in need. The paper highlights some of the benefits of advocacy for disabled children, the dilemmas facing advocates between advocating and acting in someone's ‘best interests’, identifying the client and the boundaries between advocacy and social work. It argues that time given to establish a close relationship with a disabled child or young person is crucial if advocacy is to be effective and participation in decisions affecting their lives a reality.