Research has shown that meaningful participation in decision-making can enhance young people’s confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth. Despite legislative provisions and guidance promoting children and young people’s involvement in care-planning, young people still report limited opportunities to engage meaningfully in decision-making during review meetings. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care has recommended greater investment in advocacy services to enhance young people’s participation in decision-making. Advocacy services has the potential to promote participation, redress power imbalances and give young people the confidence to engage in a traditionally adult-dominated process. However, the scope and impact of advocacy services for care-experienced young people remain largely under-researched.

The project team are carrying out this research to explore the scope, operation and implementation of advocacy in one site in England, and how advocacy practices more generally can be optimised to promote meaningful participation for care-experienced young people. This will contribute to the evidence base on advocacy services for care-experienced children and young people in the UK.


The advocacy service in the local authority provides independent support and representation for children and young people who are in care, leaving care or receiving social care services from the local authority. The service is designed to ensure that the voices and views of those children and young people are heard and taken into account in decisions that impact their lives.

The key objectives of this research study are:

  • To understand the scope and operation of advocacy services at the study site and how it differs to perceptions of other services supporting participation within the organisation.
  • To understand how advocacy services support young people to participate in decision-making and how meaningful service users and advocates perceive this to be.
  • To explore the experiences of care-experienced young people, advocates and managers in accessing and providing advocacy services and develop these findings into a framework in collaboration with care-experienced young people.

To following research questions aim to address these objectives:

  1. How and why do people think advocacy services in the participating local authority work, for whom, and what contexts might impact on whether or not advocacy services lead to positive outcomes?
  2. To what extent does the advocacy service involve care-experienced children and young people in decision-making, what enables and facilitates this, and what outcomes are important from this participation?
  3. How can data from one advocacy service be used to inform the collaborative development of a framework for practice to support the delivery of advocacy services more widely for care experienced children and young people?

Activities and Methods

This research will use a mixed-methods realist informed approach to examine how advocacy services contribute to the participation of children in care. The study will utilise a combination of semi-structured interviews, focus groups and survey data to develop a programme theory. It will be designed in collaboration with peer researchers and with input from CASCADE Voices. This research actively involves the voices of care-experienced young people throughout the project from research design to dissemination. Collaboration with advocates and young people with lived experience will be an iterative process, regularly consulting this group to ensure that the study outputs accurately reflect their perspectives.


This research is ongoing, and findings are due to be available in 2024.

Lead Person

Principal InvestigatorSammi Fitz-Symonds

Academics and Researchers

Co-InvestigatorLorna Stabler
Research AssociateDr Clive Diaz
Related SchoolsN/A
Related partnersN/A
FundersWhat Works for Early Intervention and Children’s Social Care
Related publicationsN/A
Related linksN/A
Related documentsN/A