Children’s Hearings Scotland is looking to recruit 700 members
A search has been launched for volunteers to sit on the Children's Panel.
Today (Thursday 14 January) Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) has launched its biggest ever national campaign to recruit new volunteer Children’s Panel Members to work with children in their local communities.
Panel members are volunteers from local communities who take 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 a huge impact.
Children’s Hearings Scotland national convener and chief executive, Elliot Jackson, said: “The Children’s Panel is a really essential service in Scotland, and couldn’t operate without volunteer panel members.
“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we were lucky to have truly committed volunteers who made sure we could continue to support children and families in need of care and protection. They embraced different ways of volunteering, including online hearings, and I am really proud of everything they were able to achieve in what has been a really tough year for Scotland.”
Kevin Douglas has served 23 years with the Royal Engineers as an ambassador of Women, Peace and Security for the United Nations Security Council. He has first-hand experience of the hearings system, which is what motivated him to become a panel member. Douglas said: “I had been in foster care since the age of 10 and I can remember how daunting and scared I was when I first went to a children’s hearing. I know what it feels like to be removed from my parent and how very upset I was… I’ve taken a ride on “the emotional rollercoaster” but I got through it all thanks to some good decision making from Children’s Panel members.”
Pauline Avena is originally from the Philippines; she moved to Scotland in 2016, and is studying to become a mechanical engineer. Having had a difficult childhood herself, she has been volunteering with children since she was just 15. Avena said: “The more variety we have within the panel, the more knowledge we can share with others. Children will connect with different types of people, so it’s important that they feel supported in their hearing. We can’t have panel members that are all identical as this does not take into account different experiences and views.”
The campaign aims to attract a diverse group of volunteers, to ensure panel members reflect the communities they live in, and who have the right qualities.
Elliot Jackson said: “We asked young people with lived experience of the hearings system what specific traits they wanted to see in their panel members. They were crystal clear and told us that it doesn’t matter what your background, your profession, or your age is – what matters are the qualities that you can bring to the room, such as compassion and empathy, being a good listener, someone you can trust.
“If you want to make a difference in your local community, I ask you to consider applying to volunteer as a Panel Member. You would be joining a vibrant community at an important time.”
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 make decisions with and for infants, children and young people in their local community.
In 2019/20, 30,363 children’s hearings were held across Scotland supporting 13,316 children and young people. 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 84% of all referrals were on care and protection grounds.
Applications for new panel members open today (14 January) and close midnight on 15 February.
To find out more about the role and what is involved visit: https://chscotland.gov.uk/