Chris - Shetland

Chris, aged 66 from Shetland, has been serving as a Children’s Panel member for 18 years.

With friends already on the panel and having done research on the system whilst working as a journalist at the Shetland Times back in the early 1980s, Chris thought it seemed a good way to help others in need.

He explains, “I have always been interested in trying to help children in trouble and on reading about the Children’s Panel, felt that it provided a positive way of approaching problems to help those who needed it.

”I had a few friends who were already panel members and had done a bit of research on it through work so knew a little about what it entailed. It is definitely something worthwhile to be part of.”

To serve on the Children’s Panel, volunteers have to carry out thorough pre-service training and then detailed preparation in advance of each hearing to enable them to make difficult and sometimes emotional decisions about the welfare of the child.

Chris often gets involved in the training and uses his own experiences of serving on the panel to help new members prepare for their role: “The training you receive when you join the Children’s Panel is interesting, always of a high standard and you certainly benefit in you own personal life.

“Over the past four years, I have been acting as a training facilitator to help new recruits as well which has been a very enjoyable experience. It is great getting to see that light bulb moment where new members grasp what the panel is all about.”

To become a Children’s Panel member you don’t require any qualifications but it is good to have an ability to listen and to have empathy for children who may need support to make positive changes in their lives.

As a step-father and grandfather himself, Chris finds being a panel member very rewarding and would encourage others with a desire to help young people in their communities to consider joining.

He continues, “Personally knowing that I’ve tried my best to help a vulnerable young person and their family gives me a sense of satisfaction. Whilst some cases can be very difficult, it can often be quite simple decisions which make the biggest difference.

“I think someone who is able to listen, is prepared to ask difficult questions and doesn’t make assumptions ahead of the hearing would make a good panel member. You don't need any special skills. “I would encourage anyone who enjoys working with children and is looking for a way to help those who need it to apply. It’s only one way of contributing to a child’s well-being but it can make a big impact on their life.”

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