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The Children's Panel - life changing

What is the national Children’s Panel?

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The Children’s Panel is the largest legal tribunal in Scotland, making decisions to help the lives of vulnerable children and young people. The national Children’s Panel came into being on 24 June 2013 and replaced the 32 local authority Children’s Panels that previously existed.

Who are panel members?

A panel member is a lay tribunal member who volunteers to sit on children’s hearings. Panel members play a vital role in the Children’s Hearings System, generously giving their time, skills and commitment to make decisions based on sound reasons in the best interests of each child or young person, aimed at improving his or her life.

Panel members are people from the community who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Panel members should either live or work in the local authority area in which they sit on hearings. This ensures that they are familiar with the local area, in which the children and young people they see at hearings live. Panel members sit on hearings on a rota basis. Each children’s hearing has three panel members and there must be a mix of men and women. Panel members must be at least 18 years old but there is no upper age limit. There are approximately 2,500 members of the national Children’s Panel.

How are panel members selected and appointed?

The National Convener is responsible for recruiting and appointing panel members to sit on children’s hearings.

Normally, panel members are recruited once a year through a recruitment campaign. More information about this can be found on our panel member recruitment website. There are no formal qualifications required to be a panel member, however, all applicants go through a rigorous selection procedure.

There are 22 Area Support Teams across Scotland, which are responsible for recommending individuals for appointment as panel members. For new panel members this normally involves attending an information session, completing an application form and attending an interview and group discussion. References are also followed up, and membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme is required. The initial period of appointment is three years and this is renewable on further recommendation from the AST, following monitoring of a panel member’s performance.

What training do panel members receive?

Panel members must complete an extensive ‘pre-service’ training programme. Only on successful completion of this, will panel members become fully qualified and selected to sit on children’s hearings.

Following successful completion of the pre-service training and management of hearings training, panel members receive a Professional Development Award for ‘Children’s Hearings in Scotland: Panel Members’ at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 7. Externally verified by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, this is a unique award, one of the few bespoke awards designed specifically for volunteers.

In addition, all panel members must also complete ‘in-service’ training. This includes attendance at mandatory training sessions and information, training and skills development sessions throughout the year. Panel members are also observed in hearings by a member of the AST as a key part of their practice development and review process.

Through panel member training and the experience of actually participating in hearings, panel members develop skills, including leadership, teamwork, effective communication, analytical thinking, decision making and negotiating.

What is the role of a panel member?

The role of a panel member is to make decisions in the best interests of the children and young people who come to children's hearings, to help improve their lives.

Before each hearing, panel members are sent reports and papers relating to the child or young person who will be attending the hearing. Panel members must prepare thoroughly for each hearing, reading the papers to make sure they are fully informed as to the circumstances and reasons why that child or young person has been asked to go to a hearing. 

During a hearing panel members should:

  • encourage effective participation by the child or young person and relevant others
  • ensure that their practice in the hearing is fair and that they understand and uphold the rights of everyone at the hearing
  • make clear, well founded decisions in the best interests of the child or young person and communicate these both orally and in writing
  • ensure that the reasons for and the decisions themselves are clearly recorded in line with procedural guidance.

List of panel members

Under Schedule 2 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, the National Convener must publish a list of panel members including their name, the local authority area in which they live and if they work, the local authority area in which they work. CHS is in the process of collecting this information. Should you require this information, please email information@chs.gsi.gov.uk.