Who we are and what we do
Voice is an independent national charity committed to empowering children and young people in care and in need and campaigning for lasting change to improve their lives. The charity was founded in 1975 by an experienced social worker, Gwen James, in response to the high-profile death of seven year old Maria Colwell, tragically murdered by her stepfather. ‘Voice for the Child in Care’, as we were known then, began as a small networking pressure group, passionate about enabling children in care to have their voices heard.
Voice pioneered the concept of advocacy for children. In 2002 we succeeded in lobbying for young people to have the right of access to an advocate when making a formal complaint and when making representations. This year, following further campaigning, that right has been extended so that advocacy is recognised as an option available to children whenever they want such support, particularly when plans are made about their care and in reviews of those plans.
What we do
Our main activities include:
- An independent and confidential advocacy service, accessed directly by young people via a freephone helpline number.
- Visiting advocacy services to children in residential care, secure children’s homes, Secure Training Centres, Young Offender Institutions and psychiatric units.
- Policy and campaigning work aimed at promoting a child-centred care system.
- Investigating Officers and Independent Persons for Children Act complaints and Independent Persons for Secure Accommodation Reviews.
- Independent Visitor Service for children with no regular family contact.
- Specialist training programmes for professionals including advocacy, children’s rights, leaving care, complaints, participation and young refugees.
- Participation services through which young people can shape both Voice’s services and the broader care system.
Who we help
We campaign on behalf of all 65,000 children in care. Our direct services are used by over 5,000 young people each year. In excess of 2,000 children benefit each year from our publications and website information. Whilst this year we have worked with children as young as 5 and care leavers up to 25 years, the great majority of our service users are between the ages of 11 and 21 years.
We exist in order that no child or young person in public care or ‘in need’ is left without the support of an independent expert to help them fight their corner and get their voice heard. We strive for a more child-centred care system, based on their needs; a system in which the views and feelings of each young person is at the heart of the decision-making.