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What are my rights?

Whilst our work with U18s is similar to our work with adults, there are some additional factors of which it’s good to be aware. If you are a client of Lifecentre and are under the age of 18, you need to know about your rights.

Lifecentre works with a definition called Gillick Competency, which is a way of deciding when a young person is old enough to make decisions for themselves about their lives. This is an important way of protecting your rights and privacy. This page will tell you more about Gillick Competency and how it affects counselling.

Gillick Competency

• A small child, from birth to 11 years old, would certainly be regarded as too young to make a properly informed decision affecting their life, like whether or not they should have a surgical operation. Hopefully parents and doctors will discuss things with the child – but the final decision will be up to the parents.

• By age 13, the child is usually old enough to have a good idea of what is happening – but still, if it is a matter of giving consent for a surgical operation or similar, the child’s parents will almost certainly make the final decision.

• 13-16 years old is a bit of a grey area. Some kids will know exactly what is going on, what they need and what they want. Others may not be quite so sure about what exactly they are agreeing to.

• 16-18 years old, a young person is old enough to make their own informed decisions about what they want to happen. Or are they? An 18-year-old who has special needs, is very distressed, or is misusing drugs or alcohol might not be at all safe to make good decisions.

If you are Gillick Competent:

  • You will be accepted for counselling with Lifecentre without needing your parent’s consent.
  • We will not tell your parent(s) that you are receiving counselling with Lifecentre if you don’t want us to, nor will we tell them about anything that you have revealed to your counsellor during counselling. Equally, we will not inform your school or college that you are receiving counselling.
  • As far as confidentiality goes, you have the same rights of privacy as all our adult clients (you can read our Confidentiality Policy).
  • If your counsellor is asked to attend a multi-agency case conference and represent you at that meeting, s/he will first talk carefully with you about what your feelings are and what you wish her/him to say on your behalf at the meeting.
  • If you are waiting for a court case to come up and the police ask for counselling notes, you must give your signed permission before these notes can be given to the police.

If you're not Gillick Competent:

We will not accept you for counselling with Lifecentre without your parent’s consent. If the court or police ask for counselling notes from sessions with your counsellor, your parent must sign to give consent. However, in every way, as far as we possibly can, we will respect the total privacy of our young clients as follows:

  • For young clients aged 10yrs and under, their very first meeting with the counsellor is usually with the parent/carer in the room too to help the child feel safe and settled. For 11yrs olds and over, your parent will be asked to stay outside in the waiting room so that you can speak to the counsellor on your own. We want to hear your story from you as you want to say it – and when.
  • If you want your parent to come into the room with you, you can ask him or her to come in. If you want them to go, they must go.
  • If your parent wants to know what happened in a counselling session, your counsellor won’t say anything without asking you first. If you’re not happy, it won’t happen. No-one from your school has any right to know what you have talked about in counselling and your counsellor won’t tell them either.

Whether you are considered Gillick Competent or not, there is one exception to us keeping your total privacy that you need to know about:

If you tell us information about a child who is being abused or is in danger of significant harm (and that child might be you), we will need to tell someone about it, for the protection of the child. We will do our best to talk this through with the child first. We will contact a special team of people at what is called the MASH. This stands for Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub. They will look into what needs to be done to keep that child safe. Your Lifecentre counsellor will support you as much as they can through this.

“Before I came to Lifecentre I was really low in my confidence. I have learnt that not all grown-ups are nasty, you have been very kind to me and I feel so much better now about everything as it was not my fault.”

Girl aged 9

We make no charge for counselling those under 18 years of age. As we are an independent charity we fundraise to ensure that we can continue to offer this service for free. If you, or someone close to you, are able to support us by donating towards the cost of your counselling we would be very grateful – if not then please don’t worry. If you are able to help then please discuss this with the counsellor at your first appointment.