The Stand Out Children's Advocacy Award will be awarded to an individual or service who goes to extraordinary lengths or shows exceptional commitment to improving the lives of children and young people through advocacy. Twelve members of Sheffield Children in Care Council helped design the award. They said the honour should be awarded to recognise "someone who understands children and young people, someone who is a good listener, that gets the things done that the young person wants to get done. The advocate should make a stand out, significant and massive improvement to the life of the young person". Children and adults will be equal members of the judging panel.
The inaugural award will be presented to John Kemmis in October 2018 to honour a lifetime of dedicated service to children and young people and his superb contribution to children’s independent advocacy. John spent 16 years at Voice, 12 of these as its chief executive. During this time he successfully lobbied for a legal right to advocacy for children and young people; helped establish the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium; and played an instrumental role in the development of national standards for children’s advocacy services. Among John’s many achievements within his own organisation were the expansion of advocacy services to imprisoned children and a pioneering publication of 21 children and young people’s stories of having an advocate, called Shout to be Heard. On his retirement, John left Voice with its own headquarters in City Road, London, some 60 staff and around 100 freelance workers and volunteers and a turnover of around £3 million. But this wasn’t about building an organisation for its own sake. The point was always to ensure that every child and young person is heard and has someone strong on their side when, in John’s words, they are boxed in, feeling isolated or, in extreme cases, are being abused.
John was the catalyst behind the Advocates4U campaign co-ordinated by Article 39 and named by Heather and Megan from Sheffield Children in Care Council through a national competition. Under John’s leadership, the campaign is pushing for a national strategy for children’s independent advocacy, a universal entitlement to advocacy and visiting advocates for all residential institutions. More than 40 organisations back the campaign, which is also supported by England’s current and two former Children’s Commissioners.
Article 39, Become and The Care Leavers’ Association have teamed up with the National Advocacy Awards to make sure brilliant advocates are honoured each and every year.
“Advocates tip the scales, show proper respect to children and young people and bring rights to life every day. This is a fantastic profession and we’re so pleased to be honouring John and others like him who, in standing by children, absolutely stand out.” Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
"So many of the children we've worked with at Become over the past 26 years have told us about the invaluable difference an advocate has made to their lives. A good advocate is in the child's corner and will fight tooth and nail to get the child heard and to achieve the outcomes the child wants. The fact that children in care are often denied agency and are so often done to rather than with, means that advocacy plays a crucial role." Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, Become
“When talking to older care leavers, the message that continually pops up is the difference one key person made in their lives. Care leavers often feel that their voice is not heard and their power is diminished. Having an advocate who believes in them and stands up for them plays a major part in helping care leavers achieve positive outcomes and take more control of their lives. Advocates are essential for all children in care and care leavers. They should be encouraged and celebrated for the role they play in the lives of young people.” David Graham, National Director, The Care Leavers' Association