New Volunteers needed for Children’s Panels

­40 volunteer Panel Members needed to support Scotland’s children and young people in Dundee and Tayside

Today (Wednesday 12 January) Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) launches an ambitious campaign, to recruit new volunteer Children’s Panel Members to support children and young people in their local communities.

This year, CHS aims to recruit over 40 trainee Panel Members in Dundee and Tayside. Nationally, the organisation is looking to recruit over 700 trainee Panel Members.

The organisation is looking for people over the age of 18, from a diverse range of backgrounds, that reflect the children, families and communities of Scotland, that they support. CHS also has a legal obligation to have at least one male Panel Member at every children’s hearing, so this year the organisation is focused on raising greater awareness of the importance and impact of the role amongst men.

Children’s Hearings Scotland National Convener and Chief Executive, Elliot Jackson, says: “The Children’s Panel is a statutory service in Scotland, and couldn’t operate without volunteer Panel Members making decisions with and for children and young people.

“We are a forward-looking, inclusive organisation. One that puts the views of the children and young people we exist to serve, at the heart of everything we do – including recruitment.

“This campaign is centred on what young people who have experience of children’s hearings, are telling us they want to see in their Panel Members. Qualities like being caring, compassionate, empathetic and a good listener. If you want to make a difference in your local community, I encourage you to take the opportunity this year to apply to join our wonderful volunteer community.”

Panel Members are volunteers from local communities who takes part in children’s hearings. Their role is to listen and make legal decisions with and for infants, children and young people. They are there to ensure that the young person is at the heart of every decision made – because every decision, no matter how big or small, has an impact on the life of the child or young person in the hearing.

Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, said: “Panel Members play a critical role in ensuring children and young people’s views are heard by placing them at the heart of their hearing. This is a unique opportunity to join a diverse, empathetic, caring panel who will listen to children and young people.”

Children’s Hearings Scotland is the organisation responsible for recruiting, training and supporting volunteer Panel Members. There are 2,500 volunteer Panel Members across Scotland who take part in children’s hearings and make decisions with and for infants, children and young people in their local community.

Colin Thomson a Panel Member in the Tayside area said, “Panel Members are trained to always put the best interest of the child first and foremost, so being independent volunteers allows us to objectively make decisions for the child without being influenced by other support people or relevant persons in that child’s life.

“With a constant focus on getting it right for every child, the Children’s Panel are in a position to make key decisions that are always in the best interest of the children and young people and hopefully their families too.”

Children’s Hearings Scotland are looking for Panel Members from all walks of life, to fully represent Scotland’s communities. Colin agreed that it is important for Panel Member to reflect society, “By reflecting society, children will be able to relate more to the Panel Members and that will hopefully help to build a trusting environment in hearings.”

In 2020/21 16,2481 children’s hearings were held across Scotland supporting 8,9771 children and young people. The majority of hearings during the pandemic have been held virtually which was a massive undertaking for our volunteers who managed to continue providing their support throughout. There are a range of reasons that a child or young person may be referred to attend a children’s hearing; in the last year, approximately 85%¹ of all referrals were on care and protection grounds.

Applications for new Panel Members open on 12 January 2022 and close midnight on 9 February 2022.

To find out more about the role and what is involved visit: https://chscotland.gov.uk/