Skip to main content
Bryn Melyn Logo

Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

5.11 Advocacy and Independent Visitors


The Children’s Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard
Regulation 7


The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review


This chapter was updated throughout in November 2021.


  1. Children's Commissioner and Advocates
  2. Duties of an Advocate
  3. Independent Visitors
  4. Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

1. Children's Commissioner and Advocates

All children living in the home should be able to access advice from an independent Advocate. They should also be provided with information about how to obtain independent support from the Children's Commissioner.

Advocates can help to ensure that children's wishes and feelings are heard and, as far as possible, taken into account when the placing authority and staff in the home are making decisions about their care.

The Advocate can also represent or assist a child at a meeting (for example a Looked After Review), and help in making a complaint or bringing a matter to the attention of staff and managers or the Regulatory Authority.

2. Duties of an Advocate

An Advocate's role is to promote children and young people's central involvement in decisions affecting their lives. The nature of support advocacy provides varies considerably as it is dependent upon each local authority's commissioning arrangements but every service follows these core principles:

  • The Advocate should not be directive or judgmental but should help the young person to express their views;
  • Young people should be offered full information in expressing their views;
  • Young people should decide upon the best course of action.
The advocate should always remain fully supportive of the young person.

3. Independent Visitors

The placing authority must appoint an Independent Visitor for a Looked After Child where it appears to them that it would be in the child's interests to do so. This should be considered as part of the development of the Care Plan for the child and at the Looked After Review.

The child must agree to the appointment of an Independent Visitor. Referrals for an Independent Visitor should be made to the independent Visitor Service / Coordinator in the placing authority.

The Independent Visitor will visit, advise and befriend the child, with the aim of establishing a trusting and positive relationship. They way in which they do this will vary according to the needs and wishes of each individual child. Ideally they should remain a constant in the child's life, and be there if a child moves placements or has a change of social worker. The role of the Independent Visitor is to be child focused and contribute to the welfare of the child. In particular they should:

  • Promote the child's developmental, social, emotional, educational, religious and cultural needs;
  • Encourage the child to exercise their rights and to participate in decisions which will affect them;
  • Support the Care Plan for the child; and
  • Aim, as far as possible, to complement the activities of staff.

4. Role of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

Under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, the IRO has a responsibility to monitor the child's care in between Looked After Reviews. They should be notified of significant changes / events in the child's life.

For example the IRO should be notified and consulted in the following situations:

  • Before a child is placed outside the area where the child normally lives;
  • If there are safeguarding concerns in relation to the child;
  • If a child runs away or goes missing from the home;
  • If a child or their parent complains about their care;
  • If a child is charged with an offence;
  • If a child is excluded from school;
  • If the child has any significant health concerns or medical events, including accidents.

Children must be provided with information on how to contact their IRO if they have concerns about their care and / or placement.

Managers in the home should also consult the IRO if they are concerned about the child's placement.