Having a voice
All children have the right to share their views about the extra help they get in school and for these views to be considered to when decisions are being made about their support. Changes to education law in 2018 saw the rights of children with additional support needs aged 12 – 15 extended to give them many of the same rights as their parents and carers to ask for their needs to identified and to be involved in planning their support. This does not mean that parents and carers do not have rights after their child turns 12 but that the child can act on their own behalf if they want to.
While this is a positive development, how easy is it for children to ask for extra help or tell their school that they don’t like the support they are getting? In many cases children will not have to formally ask to use their rights because their school will already gather their views when they are planning support or they have parents who can speak up for them if their support is not working for them.
But what if this isn’t happening? What happens if a child doesn’t feel confident to say they want more support, doesn’t like the way support is provided or doesn’t feel like they are being listened to? What happens if there is nobody willing or able to speak up for that child?
My Rights, My Say
The good news is that in January 2018 My Rights, My Say was set up to provide advocacy to children aged 12 – 15 who have additional support needs to help them have their voices heard about their rights in education.
My Rights, My Say is a partnership between Enquire, Children in Scotland, Partners in Advocacy and Cairn Legal. (Enquire’s role is to provide information and raise awareness of the rights, Partners in Advocacy provide advocacy to children wishing to exercising their rights, Cairn Legal provides legal representation at the Additional Support Needs Tribunal and Children in Scotland takes the views of some children involved in dispute resolution proceedings and supports local authorities to enhance professional practice in listening to children’s views.)
What difference can advocacy make?
My Rights, My Say advocacy workers can help a child share their views with their school. They can help them work out what they want to say, attend meetings with them and if they don’t feel able to speak themselves, speak on their behalf.
They can make sure a child’s rights are looked after and that their views and wishes are fully listened to when decisions are being made. They can also support them if they decide to appeal against a decision the school or local authority has made.
Having an advocate can be really helpful. Here’s some feedback about how Partners in Advocacy workers have helped children have a say in decisions that affected them.
Children and young people
“The teachers were listening. It’s much better now. I feel better. I can speak in meetings.”
I felt like you being there and supporting me definitely made them listen.
You are a star- thanks so much for coming to my meeting. It was a real help.
Thanks for all the help. You’ve changed my life for the better.
Parents / Carers
Thank you so much for everything you are doing for my son. I know that you are making a huge difference to him with this whole situation.
My daughter wouldn’t be any further on if it wasn’t for you. She responds so much better to a trusted adult out with the family.
I can’t praise the work you do with my son enough and it was lovely to hear his voice and opinions today.
I would well recommend this service, as they are there for the children and are very professional without talking at the children.
If your child is aged 12 -15 and want to use their rights to be more involved in decisions about their support they can get in touch with My Rights, My Say here. If you want to know more about your child’s rights or make a referral, visit the My Rights, My Say page of our website.