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Title: Exploring structure and agency : the role of advocacy in facilitating children's participation in decisions about their care
Author: Oliver, C. M.
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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In this submission, I present an analytic commentary on the role of advocacy in facilitating the participation of looked after children, and children in need, in decisions about their care. I advance theoretical understandings of advocacy by framing my analysis of empirical data in relation to a key focus for sociology in general, and the sociology of childhood in particular: the relationship between agency and structure. I argue that, drawing on the work of Giddens (1993) and Durkheim (1895; 1964), the attitudes of social care professionals, as representatives of structure, can both constrain or enable children to exercise agency in care decision-making. Further, that when children enter the care system, they inherit a structure that is not of their making but that, in challenging care decision-making with the support of advocacy, they may contribute to the 'structuration' of care services. Nevertheless, professionals' resistance to advocacy and their control of financial resources can function as a trump card, blocking children's attempts to influence care decision-making and potentially undermining their well-being and rights. The evidence I present in this thesis shows that advocacy can achieve positive emotional and practical benefits for children in public care and in need, and that children express high levels of satisfaction with advocacy even if they do not achieve all their goals. I also draw on evidence from my research to argue that the advocacy relationship underpins children's capacity to exercise agency and, for the many disabled children, is an essential pre-condition for participation in care decision-making. The original research on which this submission is based was pioneering in that it was national in scope, explored advocacy in a wide variety of settings and with diverse children, and from multiple perspectives. The study also explored advocacy processes and outcomes, thus addressing gaps in the evidence base and thereby making an original contribution to knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available