The Independent Advocacy Project (2012 - 2013) centred on supporting separated children in finding their own voice by matching children with advocates who act as mentors. The objective of the project is to promote the young person’s integration into Irish society and their understanding of the asylum process.

The pilot project included advocates in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick and Cork who each act on behalf of at least one young person. The advocacy pilot aims to assign advocates to children vulnerable to trafficking or those that have been trafficked to prevent exploitation or further exploitation. The independent advocate assigned to each separated child is tasked with advocating on their behalf in their dealings with all aspects of their lives including with the HSE and the Department of Justice. They were responsible for linking the child in with local organisations and services and supporting the child on a personal level throughout the asylum application procedure or during a trafficking investigation. The advocate’s principle responsibility was to make a best interest assessment and develop a plan with a durable solution in mind. The aim of the advocacy pilot programme was to ensure greater continuity for the separated child as they navigate the immigration system, to guarantee their rights and security, and to empower separated children to be their own protectors as well.

The advocates are volunteers who were locally recruited or appointed through the regional organisations. They were then trained by the Irish Refugee Council over two days, our Independent Law Centre also participated in this process. They were vetted through their regional organisations. The role of the advocate is to build a relationship based on trust. Therefore advocates were recruited based on their exhibited level of commitment and their proven work with people and/or children in an advocacy capacity in the past. The main ‘programme of work’ shared between the advocate and the young person is a ‘goals plan’. The aim of the plan is to set goals for 6 months and one year, big and small objectives, and to work through them with a supportive person. Additionally, the advocate supported the young person in ensuring their basic needs were met. Through this process, the advocate communicated with the social workers and/or care-providers, teachers, solicitors, etc. 

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