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The Children's Panel - life changing

What is an Area Support Team?

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An Area Support Team (AST) is made up of a group of volunteers who carry out functions on behalf of the National Convener to support members of the Children’s Panel who sit on children's hearings in their area. There are approximately 250 AST members across Scotland.

Area Support Teams came into being on 31 March 2013. From 24 June 2013 they replaced the 30 local authority Children’s Panel Advisory Committees that previously existed.

The ASTS are supported locally by clerks to the AST. Clerks are local authority employees who act as a central point of contact for AST and panel members. While not a member of the AST, they play an integral role, providing support to the Area Convener and the AST in general. Each local authority can also nominate at least one member to the AST of which they are a part. Their role is to be aware of local issues and act as an important link between the Children’s Panel and the local authority elected members and relevant local authority senior officials and departments. 

How many ASTs are there?

There are 22 Area Support Teams (ASTs) across Scotland:

Area Support Team Constituent local authorities within the AST
Aberdeen Aberdeen City
Aberdeenshire Aberdeenshire
Argyll and Bute Argyll and Bute
Ayrshire East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire
Central and West Lothian   Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling, West Lothian
Dumfries and Galloway  Dumfries and Galloway 
East Dunbartonshire East Dunbartonshire
East Renfrewshire East Renfrewshire
Edinburgh Edinburgh
Eilean Siar Eilean Siar
Fife  Fife 
Glasgow Glasgow
Highland and Moray Highland, Moray
Inverclyde Inverclyde
North Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire
Orkney Orkney
Renfrewshire Renfrewshire
South East Scotland East Lothian, Midlothian, Scottish Borders
South Lanarkshire South Lanarkshire
Shetland Shetland
Tayside Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross
West Dunbartonshire West Dunbartonshire

What do ASTs do?

The Area Support Teams are responsible for managing and supporting the national Children’s Panel at a local level. The main functions of ASTs are to:

  • undertake the recruitment of panel members as part of the national recruitment campaign
  • interview, assess and select applicants for recommendation to the National Convener for appointment and make recommendations for panel member reappointment
  • ensure that all volunteers in the Children’s Hearings System have had the appropriate checks undertaken in line with the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme
  • manage the rota for the Children’s Panel within the AST area
  • support panel members on a day to day basis
  • observe and assess panel member practice and ensure panel members are offered continuous learning and development opportunities
  • handle complaints about panel members
  • build and develop effective working relationships with key partners in the local area.

How are ASTs managed?

Each Area Support Team is managed by an Area Convener. Each Area Convener is accountable to the National Convener.

Involvement of the local authority in the AST

The contribution and commitment of local authorities and CHS towards the support and operation of ASTs is set out in a Partnership Agreement between CHS and the relevant local authority/local authorities.

How are AST members recruited and appointed?

All AST members are appointed by the National Convener. Appointments are made following an open recruitment process, in line with CHS’ recruitment policy. The National Convener is responsible for overseeing recruitment to Area Convener and Depute Area Convener roles. The National Convener and CHS also manage the advertising of ‘internal’ roles for the ASTs. The National Convener receives and responds to nominations for local authority members where these arise. 

What training do AST members receive?

A number of training courses have been developed to support AST members in their roles, incluing:

  • Recruitment and Selection of panel members
  • Observation and Feedback
  • Reappointment of panel members
  • Complaints Handling

In addition, there is a session designed to introduce new AST members to the Children’s Hearing System, its origins, underpinning principles, core values and the key stages of a Children’s Hearing.

Further information about the training available for AST members can be found in the CHS Community Training Prospectus. This training is supplemented with policy and practice seminars, briefing notes and detailed guidance in the form of ‘Core Policies for the Operation of Area Support Teams’.

Further information about the responsibilities of the ASTs and the roles within them can be found in ‘Area Support Teams: Functions, Roles and Responsibilities.’