28th December 2022

Help at Hand: Annual Round-up

Help at Hand is the Children’s Commissioner’s advice and assistance service for children who are in care, leaving care, working with social services or living away from home. Children and their advocates can get in touch with Help at Hand via the freephone telephone line, website or email.

2022 has been a big year for Help at Hand. In 2022 Help at Hand undertook and published a review of the service. The review included getting the views of almost 70 children and young people under the remit of Help at Hand and also included interviews of children and families who had used the service. We are grateful to everyone who took part. You can find the review and annual report here.

The review found that Help at Hand should:

  1. Reach more children directly by raising our profile with children in care and focusing on key points in their lives.
  2. Provide an integrated digital offer with a range of digital products aimed at informing and empowering children.
  3. Have more of the most serious and complex cases referred to us from partners; the Help at Hand service does not want to duplicate the work of local advocacy services.
  4. Educate and empower professionals to support systemic improvements; the office wants to consider how they can address the key issues children face through instigating changes to local and national systems.
  5. Improve the quality and culture of advocacy nationally.

Help at Hand has already been working on this. We have been delighted to take the following actions in the last few months:

  • Deliver two free training sessions for advocates. In September we delivered a session on the rights of children in care in relation to being moved and in December we ran a session on care leaver rights.
  • Write to all children’s homes explaining our service and inviting children’s homes staff to attend training sessions in December and January. The focus of this session will be children in children’s homes that are not in school, as this is one of the biggest issues we are contacted for by Children’s Homes.
  • Be part of the program of website redesign. We hope the new website will be launched in early 2023 with new and improved resources.
  • Visit secure settings, like young offender’s institutions and settings accommodating unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
  • Have conversations with both Ofsted and the Department for Education about working together to improve Help at Hand’s impact.
  • Continue to do excellent case work.

The consequence of taking the actions above means Help at Hand has seen a significant rise in cases from September to December. The themes of these cases are set out in the annual report which you can find here.

We are proud to have helped lots of children this year. These are just two examples:

  • Alfie* is 11 and has a number of physical and mental health conditions. His parents contacted us because they desperately needed more support for him, including additional hours with carers, short breaks, and help with his education. The local authority refused to provide this at the level the family needed, and Alfie’s challenging behaviour escalated to the point of several, very serious safeguarding incidents. After numerous interventions from Help at Hand to both Children’s Services and Health, Alfie was offered short breaks (respite) in his local area, more support at home from carers, and ultimately was able to return to education and get the therapeutic input he needed from CAMHS. This has made a huge difference for him; he is now making great progress, needs fewer short breaks, and is feeling good about his future. His parents are so relieved that he has the help he needs and can continue to live within his family.
  • Nabeel* is a child in care with a physical disability, who was moved out of his home without any notice. The place he was moved into had not been visited by him or his social work team. On arrival it was clear that this setting was inappropriate and could not meet his needs. Help at Hand made representations on his behalf and within a few days Nabeel was moved to more suitable accommodation, and Help at Hand asked the local authority to reflect on their decision making.

This is some of the feedback we have received in 2022:

I wanted to write to thank you for being you for being there and sticking with us! I don’t think you realise just how much that means to me/us!

Your compassion and understanding makes so much difference! Just speaking to you, the fact that you even bothered to call keeps me hanging on. When you feel like you are on a cliffs edge holding on and people are walking by some ignoring you some treading on your fingers you have no idea that how much it means for you to say you are with us, that you are there and you are not giving up on us!” Mother of a disabled child

 Helping hand have supported quite a few of my young people and I know they have always commented on how they were listened to and made to feel important and that they mattered. I have always found staff really helpful. Thank you” Professional Advocate

She [Child’ Rights Adviser] she really understood what I was talking about, she understood where I was coming from, she really understood the rights, which was […] I had felt that nobody was listening to what I was saying, and nobody had heard my side at all’ – Child, Help at Hand

We look forward to hearing from and helping more children and care leavers next year.

*Names changed