Coram Voice enables and equips children and young people to hold to account the services that are responsible for their care. We uphold the rights of children and young people to actively participate in shaping their own lives.
We do this because we believe in a society which recognises and willingly accepts its responsibilities to children and young people, where the inequalities and discrimination they currently face have been eradicated, where they are fully engaged in all decisions made about their lives and where their views, needs and feelings are at the core of those decisions.
In the UK today there are over 68,000 children and young people reliant on the state for their care and wellbeing, with 378,000 more needing some level of support from children’s services. It’s not their fault. They are there because their families cannot care for them safely or because they have been abused or neglected.
The care system should improve lives and be a positive experience, and for many it is. But for an increasing number the very system that has been put there to protect them lets them down. Unaware of their rights and unsure who to turn to, many struggle to access support they are legally entitled to, such as safe housing, benefits, education or advice.
As a result, many become mistrustful of the system, excluded and alienated from society and exposed to harmful situations. They get let down, and because of this they fail to realise their full potential and struggle far more than children from stable family backgrounds. These children have a right to support that fully meets their needs, as and when they ask for it.
Our advocacy services provide these children with a professional adult who will listen to them, establish their wishes, opinions and fears, and ensure their voice is heard. We help them to navigate the system, challenge decisions and make certain their rights and wellbeing are prioritised. We empower them to have a role in decision-making processes. We help them know that someone is listening.
We deliver high quality advice and support: If someone in authority fails to fulfil their obligations to a child, we support them to have their opinions taken into account, make complaints and access what is rightfully theirs, improving their lives and their experience of the care system.
Our advocates offer direct support through our free national helpline and at face-to-face meetings. Specialist advocates offer expertise on more complex topics, including problems faced by care leavers, unaccompanied refugees, and those with disabilities or mental health issues.
We seek out the hardest-to-reach and most vulnerable: Those who need us the most are often the least likely to contact us. We go to places where children in care and care leavers are highly represented, such as centres for homeless young people. As well as tackling specific problems, we support young people to understand their rights and how to advocate for themselves. We also provide training and resources for staff in agencies who will be in direct contact with these young people, reaching them that way.
We engage young people in all aspects of our work: We are child-driven. Care-experienced young people help to shape our strategy, drive campaigns, interview staff and design and deliver our training.
We campaign to fix the system so that future children do not face similar problems: By learning from the individual stories and experiences of those we support, we lobby and support government, both nationally and locally, to change policies and practices so that children and care leavers have a better experience of being in care.
We provide and share expertise: We support and encourage children’s service departments to improve practices so that all children in care are fully supported by the system, reducing their need for our work. We run highly regarded training programmes to encourage child-centred practices and raise awareness of the problems young people face.