Who Speaks for Us?

27 February 2008 News

NICCY report shows lack of advocacy for disabled children and young people with complex needs – 50% have no-one speaking out on their behalf.

NORTHERN Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley today called on Government to increase advocacy services for disabled children with complex needs.

Ms Lewsley said such children are being denied a voice through an all too common absence of someone to speak on their behalf.

“Advocacy services should be designed and maintained to make sure that a child’s right to education, health and development needs is given a voice,” said the Commissioner.

“I was shocked that half of the children and young people involved in this research had no-one advocating on their behalf.”

Ms Lewsley said that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety must coordinate advocacy services at a strategic level.

“The service, as it stands now, is too patchy,” she said. “Families must know how they can get advocacy services, and at present there is no planned way to make them aware of the services that are available.

“There must be long-term funding to maintain services.

“We must never forget that the children and young people in need of these services are amongst the most vulnerable in society.

“Government must commit to making sure that each disabled child with complex needs has someone to speak on their behalf, argue their corner and address issues about services as and when they arise.”

A copy of the report has today been sent to the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey MLA.

“I will be asking the Minister to take action to make sure these recommendations are implemented,” she said.

A Child friendly summary is available here and the full report here.