‘Lay’ Advocate/Court Intermediary Work
In 2019 Case Law established that the role of the Independent (Lay) Advocate and an Intermediary were comparable in terms of support to the parent and therefore in relation to funding through HMCTS and in the early part of this year we started to see the first move away from our traditional referral and funding system – that had been led by Local Authorities, towards Solicitors seeking and securing funding for Advocacy support from ourselves in active and new case work through the Courts.
More recently – in July 2020 – Case Law has also established the role of Legal Aid Agency in funding the Independent (Lay) Advocate to support parents to meet with and instruct their legal representatives.
We have worked for more than 20 years supporting parents with learning disabilities/difficulties or other vulnerabilities, to understand the concerns of other parties, to respond to and understand expectations for change, to assist in communication and ensuring information is accessible, support at Child Protection meetings and reviews, Core Groups as well as Pre-Proceedings and Family Law proceedings. We know that the earlier the intervention with parents the bigger the impact of the Advocacy can be – and have many examples of those families who have had (and continue to receive) support from ourselves who are still parenting their own children or are active in the lives of their own children. However , we also know that at any stage in this process, Advocacy support can assist and improve communication, understanding, engagement and outcomes for all parties – even for those parents’ whose children do not remain in their care.
Advocacy is more than communication support – albeit this is a significant aspect of our work. Good Advocacy provides a safe and supportive relationship that listens, respects and assists parents to hear, reflect upon and understand their own situation. It is concerned with the welfare of the parent in their own right and as a parent and is of course independent from the other professionals involved in the parents/families life. Good Advocacy is discrete and at times unseen – it is the relationship that understands the parent’s specific communication needs and possible emotional triggers. Very often in the Court setting it is quiet/whispered information sharing and reassurance, written support and collecting of the parent’s thoughts to share at the appropriate juncture.
Your Say undertake a short assessment of the parent upon receipt of the referral and use this to guide our support to the parent – we can also undertake more formal assessment which can inform the Court as to the measures that may be required within the Court Hearing to accommodate the parents communication needs.