I have been volunteering with the Plymouth Parent Advocacy Project for the last two years. After initially contacting Kate I spent some time doing some admin and other tasks for the Parent Project. In September 2017 I completed the advocacy training course which was really interesting and informative and gave me the confidence to be able to put my name forward to be matched with an advocacy partner. As I have limited free time alongside studying for a degree in social work, Kate matched me with a parent who needed only occasional support as her child is in local authority care.
Despite this small commitment on my time, I feel that I have been able to have a real impact in the life of my advocacy partner. Maria (not her real name) had previously felt unable to attend any meetings with social services concerning her child as she was still very angry about the care proceedings that had taken place. Maria and I met a few times for coffee to get to know each other a bit better and I contacted her child’s social worker directly, to ask him to keep me informed of any meetings that were taking place. The social worker contacted me after a few weeks to say that he wanted to hold a meeting with Maria and myself, if I was able to persuade her to attend.
Due to having someone accompany her, Maria felt able to attend that meeting where she was told that the local authority intended to go through court proceedings to reduce the level of contact that Maria has with her child. With assistance from Kate at the Parent Project Trust we were able to gain representation for Maria from a solicitor and attended the court to argue against the reduction in contact. The judge agreed with Maria and the solicitor that it was not in the interest of the child to reduce parental contact, so it has remained the same as before. This was a great outcome for Maria and just shows that if she were unable to have an advocate the outcome may have been very different. She now continues to be engaged with the local authority on all matters relating to her child, attends every single contact session and goes to 6 monthly LAC reviews which I attend with her. Maria still really dislikes her child’s social worker but is at least able to be in the same room as him now!