The government has introduced a range of legislation and guidance to provide statutory rights for children and young people to participate in decision-making and service development.
The Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to ascertain the wishes and feelings of a child before making any decisions concerning him or her and to give due consideration to those wishes.
The Children Act 2004 (Part 5 section 53) amended The Children Act 1989 and placed a new duty on local authorities to ascertain a child's wishes and feelings and give due consideration to them, (with regard to age and understanding). This must be done in relation to assessments of children in need under section 17 and in relation to child protection investigations under section 47 of The Children Act 1989.
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 (section 119) imposes a duty on local authorities to provide advocacy services for looked after children, young people leaving care and children in need who wish to make a complaint under the Children Act 1989 complaints procedure.
The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 will introduce a number of new measures to support disabled children who are placed away from home. The guidance is expected to require specialist support to be made available for looked after children and young people who have communication support needs or other complex needs. It will ensure their views are heard when plans for their care are being made or being reviewed.
Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 is an Act to amend Part 4 of the Education Act 1996; to make further provision against discrimination, on grounds of disability, in schools and other educational establishments; and for connected purposes.
The Equality Act 2010 makes provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics; to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct; to enable duties to be imposed in relation to the exercise of public procurement functions; to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.
Human Rights Act 1998 gives further legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 is an Act to make provision about children and young persons who are being, or have been, looked after by a local authority; to replace section 24 of the Children Act 1989; and for connected purposes.
Autism Act 2009 makes provision about meeting the needs of adults with autistic spectrum conditions; and for connected purposes.
The new statutory Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service was launched across England on 1 April 2007 and in Wales on 1 October 2007. Information about new IMCA related additions including policy publications, consultations, guidance documents and research reports, as well as bulletins, speeches and press releases can be found using the above link. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 will provide a much clearer legal framework for people who lack capacity and those caring for them by setting out key principles, procedures and safeguards.
From April 2009, statutory access to an Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) has been available to patients subject to certain aspects of the Health Act 1983. IMHAs exist to help and support patients to understand and exercise their legal rights. IMHAs are available to most detained patients as well as patients on supervised community treatment or guardianship. Primary care trusts are responsible for commissioning IMHA services for patients subject to the Mental Health Act 1983.