Clare - Stirling
Clare, aged 37 from Bannockburn, has been serving as a Children’s Panel member for almost four years. One of Clare’s friends was a panel member so Clare decided to find out more about volunteering.
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She explains, “I applied to be a panel member because I have a genuine interest in helping children in my local area. There are children out there that aren’t being cared for properly and I believe that everyone has a responsibility to look after their community. The Children’s Panel is a great way of having a direct impact on the lives of these children and improving their standard of living.
“There are great rewards to being a Children’s Panel member. Knowing you are having a positive influence on a child’s life is very uplifting. You get to see the benefits in a child from the decisions that you have made.
“It can be difficult to separate your emotions from some cases but we need to in order to remain professional. It is sometimes very upsetting to hear a difficult case and realise that this was happening on your doorstep and you had no idea.”
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.
“The training for panel members is first class. You are taught the skills and knowledge that you will need when sitting on a hearing. You cover everything from what the Children’s Panel is to legislation and coping with conflict. You feel fully supported during and after the training sessions, not only by the training staff but also by your fellow panel members. The training can be time consuming but it is necessary to provide you with the understanding you need to be a panel member.
“New panel members should also be aware that they may have to spend several hours preparing for a hearing. They will receive papers about the child and will have to go through these in advance of the hearing in order to understand what the issues are in that child’s life.
Clare adds, “Since becoming a panel member I have developed my presentation and written skills, both of which have helped me greatly in my professional life. I am self employed so I can balance my work with the Children’s Panel well. If you are committed to being a panel member you will find that the Children’s Panel works around your life.
“For people who are considering joining the panel it is important that they speak to their employer. Their employer will gain an employee with valuable new skills but they need to be willing to give them time off to volunteer in return.”
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. Panel members are not there to judge but to help find solutions to the sometimes difficult situations in a child’s life.
Clare continues, “To be a good panel member you need to be able to listen and remain impartial, which can sometimes be difficult. You must also be able to empathise with another’s situation and be non judgemental. You need to focus on what the panel is looking to achieve and work with the other members to come to a collective decision that benefits the child.
“I would urge anyone who is thinking about joining the Children’s Panel to take the next step. Don’t just think about it – go along to an open evening. It really is hugely rewarding.”