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Extend Independent Visitor entitlement to 25 years old, charity says

The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) says that the entitlement to an Independent Visitor in England and Wales should be extended to the age of 25, in line with advocacy.

12/09/22

Extend Independent Visitor entitlement to 25 years old, charity says

A UK children's charity is calling for the right to the services of an Independent Visitor to be extended to care leavers up to the age of 25.

An Independent Visitor is a trained volunteer who is uniquely placed to provide care-experienced children and young people with emotional support and stability.

Independent Visitors offer the chance for children and young people in care up to the age of 18 to build trusting and positive relationships with an adult who is not paid to be there.

It is a statutory entitlement for young people in care to be offered an Independent Visitor. However, recent studies have shown that very few children in care are using Independent Visitor services. In England, only 3.3% of care-experienced children have an Independent Visitor, with the picture in Wales even bleaker at just 1%.

The new report from the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS), which offers socio-legal advocacy services to children and young people up to the age of 25, finds that if children and young people are regularly made to feel safe, respected and listened to by an adult or two in their lives, then their ability to recover from or cope with significant stresses improves.

They say that many young people in care do not realise that they have a right to access an Independent Visitor if it’s in their best interest and that, with the service currently restricted to those aged 18 and younger, there’s a risk that they won’t have the chance to build the kind of trusting relationship that the service can provide.

The recent Independent Review of Children's Social Care for England recommended local authorities redesign their existing Independent Visitor schemes for children in care and care leavers to allow for long-term relationships to be built.

NYAS says this presents the perfect opportunity to restructure the Independent Visitor schemes across England and Wales to make sure young people are supported up to the age of 25, creating parity with advocacy services.

“Only a statutory duty on local authorities from the UK and Welsh Governments will guarantee a consistent, long-term offer of Independent Visitor support for children and young people,” researchers in the report state.

The charity is also calling for the three local authorities in Wales and the two in England without Independent Visitor schemes to start providing them, as is their legal obligation.

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