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Enquire Blog

Mother using laptop with daughter.

Six years of My Rights My Say

As the My Rights, My Say service approaches its sixth birthday, Participation and Communication Officer, Susie Dalton, reflects on the service and the role of the partners involved, as well as some exciting new developments.  

Lots of young people in Scotland need a bit of extra help in school. This could be for reasons related to mental health, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or other factors such as bullying or bereavement. Schools are legally required to provide your child with support if they need it, but it’s hard to know how to begin this conversation about what you’re entitled to, and what to do if the support isn’t being offered.  

That’s where My Rights, My Say can help. We support and advocate for your child and their right to have additional support at school. We also give you the information and support you need to help them.  

This has been our focus since the service was first established in 2018 when a change to the Education (Scotland) Act (2016) meant that, for the first time, children aged 12-15 were legally able to request specific support and assessments to help them learn in school. (Read more about the changes here) Since then, we have supported more than 1000 children directly and provided information and advice to thousands of people.  

Our work requires a range of expertise. My Rights, My Say is made up of four different organisations – Enquire, Cairn Legal, Children in Scotland and Partners in Advocacy – who each contribute different support to help children, their parents/carers, and professionals. 

Support for parents

Knowing that your child is struggling at school, but not knowing who to talk to or what kind of support you can ask for can be frustrating. The most important thing to keep in mind is – this isn’t something you have to work out alone. As part of My Rights, My Say, Enquire offer advice and information on issues ranging from what your child is legally entitled to and how to work with school to achieve it, to what happens if your child is excluded from school. Enquire also operate a helpline, open three days per week, with trained advisors available to discuss your specific circumstance. (Visit the Enquire contact us page here).   

How we support your child

One of the biggest strengths of the My Rights, My Say service is our highly skilled and compassionate staff team, all of whom have a wealth of experience working with children and families.

With Partners in Advocacy, we provide advocacy support for young people aged 12-15 to speak up about what matters to them in school settings. Our independent advocacy workers will explain to your child what they are entitled to, listen to them, and help them work out what they want to say. They will attend school meetings with them, and depending on your child’s preference, will either communicate your child’s thoughts on their behalf, or support them to feel confident in speaking up. They’ll also help your child to understand the outcomes of the decisions made and explain clearly what other options they have.  

Our Children’s Views service, run by Children in Scotland, ensure that the voices of children and young people are represented in formal and adult-led processes by co-writing reports with the children themselves. Referrals to this part of MRMS tend to come from professionals and parents and our children’s views workers are highly skilled in supporting children to share their views in meaningful and comfortable ways. 

Where a child wishes to make a reference to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal our legal team from Cairn Legal can support them by providing legal representation and advice. 

In every instance, we actively listen to young people and adapt to their individual and unique needs, exploring different ways of communicating and understanding each other. This could involve casual chatting, drawing, crafting, dancing, playing, acting, texting, making videos – even a game of Minecraft! What is most important to us is that your child feel safe, listened to, and in control of what happens.  

Children’s rights

Giving children a say in the things that affect them isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s fundamentally part of their human rights. In Scotland, the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law means children have substantially increased legal protection if their rights aren’t being fulfilled. More than ever before, children and young people are empowered to receive the support they are entitled to from schools.  

Children aren’t just adults-in-waiting: they are autonomous, active citizens who have wants, needs, and ideas. It can be overwhelming as a parent to know how to give your children the space they need to express themselves, while protecting and guiding them. We facilitate this balance by providing the information and support you need to know what you and your child are entitled to, and by advocating for what your child wants to the people who need to listen to it.

Looking to the future

We often see things change for the better for young people when they are being properly listened to. This is why we’ve decided to recruit an advisory group of young people who have previously used the My Rights, My Say service to help us make it the best it can be for young people. We’ll be putting out a call out for young people in the coming months – so watch this space!

The point of participation (and of My Rights My Say) is not to have children validate the work that adults are doing, or for it to be a tick-box exercise. It is to ensure that children can truly exercise their rights in a meaningful way, and gain confidence in doing so. That’s what we have been doing – and what we will continue to do over the next six years and beyond.  

Susie Dalton is the Participation and Communication Officer for My Rights, My Say.  

For more information about the children and young people’s advisory group, keep an eye on the My Rights, My Say and Enquire social media channels.  Follow on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.

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