Panel will change a child’s life – and transform yours too ...

The search is on for 500 new Panel members. Picture: Chris James
The search is on for 500 new Panel members. Picture: Chris James

A call has gone out for people who could give up their time to help vulnerable children and young people in Falkirk.

The Children’s Panel is looking for volunteers with compassion, empathy and the ability to listen.

That’s because recruiting the right person can make a world of difference to children’s lives.

The panel can vastly improve outcomes for troubled or at risk children and young people who are in need of care or who have offended.

Children’s Hearings Scotland has 2500 members across Scotland but a new national campaign is looking for 500 volunteers.

The recruitment campaign for Scotland’s largest legal tribunal wants to highlight exactly what it means to be a panel member in a bid to attract the right candidates.

But they are keen to emphasise that new members are welcome from all walks of life and they will get plenty of training to prepare them for the role and support them through it.

The initial training programme is spread over two years – and from then on is on-going.

Heather Scott, from Falkirk, has been a member of the Children’s Panel for five years and is currently studying Health and Social Care with the Open University.

She applied to become a panel member after she saw an advert appealing for applicants online.

Heather (27) said: “I have done a lot volunteering work but I wanted to do something different and help children in my local area.

“I knew that becoming a member of the Children’s Panel would be a rewarding experience. You gain so many skills and learn so much from being a panel member.

“My communication skills in particular have improved and I am better at talking to people of all different levels and adapting my approach appropriately.

“Being on the Children’s Panel definitely boosts your confidence.

“Being a panel member can be tough at times. You have to make some difficult decisions and keep the child’s best interests at heart but the satisfaction you get from knowing you are helping people makes it all worthwhile.”

Once trained, panel members must commit to on-going training as well as preparation ahead of attending one to two hearings sessions per month.

Boyd McAdam, National Convener and Chief Executive of Children’s Hearings Scotland, said: “Without the support and commitment of our volunteers, there wouldn’t be a hearings system in Scotland.

“The role is unique, and those who give their time are unswerving in their dedication to improve the lives of those children and young people who are vulnerable or troubled.

“This year, we want to be clear about the commitment involved in being a panel member in a bid to ensure people who apply understand what being a panel member involves.

“We’re indebted to the many employers who give their employees time off to attend children’s hearings, and would encourage potential applicants to talk to their employer prior to applying.

“Although the commitment is considerable, it is equally rewarding, if not more so.

“By giving your time, you can help make a real difference to the life of a child or young person facing an uncertain future.”

There will be an information evening on September 14 at 7pm in Alloa Town Hall for those who are interested in becoming a panel member.

Applicants need to be 18 or over. The deadline for applications is 25 September.

To find out more about becoming a member of the Children’s Panel or to apply online visit www.childrenspanelscotland.org.

What is the Children’s Panel

The Children’s Panel is a crucial part of the Children’s Hearings System, which is Scotland’s distinctive approach to dealing with children and young people who are in trouble or at risk.

Panel members are lay members of the community, aged 18 or over and come from a wide range of backgrounds. They are unpaid volunteers who are appointed to the Children’s Panel to make decisions at children’s hearings about the help and guidance necessary to support children and young people.

Decisions are made in the best interests of the child or young person to help and protect them. Panel members are appointed for three years at a time.

The Children’s Hearings System depends on a supportive partnership between panel members and their employers. Once a trainee has successfully completed the comprehensive training, they take up their appointment and attend children’s hearings on a rota basis, usually one or two morning or afternoon sessions each month.

This means that panel members have to sit on hearings at times when they might normally be at work, so it is crucial that the employer/line manager and work colleagues appreciate the value of the contribution that their employee/colleague is making to their community.

At the hearing the child or young person’s circumstances will be discussed, including background reports and wider family issues. Everybody involved gets a chance to speak at the hearing, especially the child or young person, and the discussion is chaired by one of the panel members.

At the end of the discussion the panel members will make a decision that they consider to be in the best interests of the child or young person.