Evaluation of COVID-19 Residential Visiting Advocacy Project

Oct 12, 2021

We are proud to be launching the findings from a recent pilot project on Residential Visiting Advocacy in Wales conducted by TGP Cymru during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This report utilises the research conducted by Dr Anne Crowley published in our 2019 report “Out of Sight – Out of Rights”. Dr Crowley’s research, partially funded by the Welsh Government, determined that residential visiting advocacy was an added safeguard for children placed in these homes and an independent person visiting these homes regularly was a recommendation of the Waterhouse Inquiry into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales in 2000.

At the time the research was carried out there were 178 children’s homes in Wales, 23 of which were owned and run by local authorities, and 155 by independent or voluntary sector providers. 100% of the children’s homes operated by local authorities commission a residential visiting advocacy service, whereas only 5-10% of children’s homes provided by the independent sector – approximately 22 homes out of 155 – provide this added safeguard.

This is quite an anomaly, as homes ran by local authorities are under closer scrutiny from elected representatives and officers. Particularly anomalous as children under the care of local authorities are placed closer to their home communities and tend to see their social workers more regularly, yet they are the ones where a Residential Visiting Advocacy service is prioritised. Conversely, children placed in independently run children’s homes tend to be further away from home and report that they see their social worker, family members and friends less frequently. Consequently, children in the private sector report feeling more isolated and lonelier.

In September 2020 TGP Cymru received WCVA Emergency Funding to pilot a free residential visiting advocacy to 140 independent homes across Wales during the pandemic. Only 37 homes took up this offer. On 83 visits we were able to ensure young people’s voices were heard, responded to 12 issues raised and refer a further 8 back to the placing authority. During these virtual visits our residential visiting advocate dealt with issues including general care in the children’s home and contact issues for children who were separated from their parents and family.

While a success, unfortunately since this pilot project only 3 of the homes have commissioned an ongoing residential visiting advocacy service. Therefore, TGP Cymru are strongly committed to campaigning for residential visiting advocacy as a requirement for Registration and Inspection with Care Inspectorate Wales. We believe that if this happens then hundreds of children and young people in the care system in Wales will have an added Safeguard against violence and abuse by being made aware of their rights and having someone to ensure that their rights under the UNCRC are upheld.

Click here to read our report