About the national Children's Panel
WHAT IS THE CHILDREN'S PANEL?
Children's Panel members have been making decisions about the welfare of vulnerable children and young people since children's hearings were first established in 1971. Children's Panel members are vital to Scotland's Children's Hearings System. Panel members are lay members of the community, aged 18 or over and come from a wide range of backgrounds. There are approximately 2,500 Children's Panel members across Scotland. They are unpaid volunteers who are appointed to the Children's Panel to make decisions at children's hearings about the help and guidance necessary to support children and young people. Decisions are made in the best interests of the child or young person to help and protect them. Children's panel members are appointed for a period of three years at a time.
The Children's Hearings System depends on a supportive partnership between Children's Panel members and their employers. Once a trainee has successfully completed the comprehensive training, they take up their appointment and attend children's hearings on a rota basis, usually for one or two morning or afternoon sessions each month. This means that panel members have to sit on hearings at times when they might normally be at work, so it is crucial that the employer/line manager and work colleagues appreciate the value of the contribution that their employee/colleague is making to their community.
Hearings are statutory tribunals and it is therefore an employee's statutory right to be allowed 'reasonable' time off to attend. However, the enthusiastic and willing cooperation of employers is essential for the system to work effectively.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A CHILDREN'S HEARING?
At the hearing the child or young person's circumstances will be discussed, including background reports and wider family issues. Everybody involved gets a chance to speak at the hearing, especially the child or young person, and the discussion is chaired by one of the panel members. At the end of the discussion the panel members will make a decision that they consider to be in the best interests of the child or young person. Hearings are normally held in a hearings centre run by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) or on local authority premises, in the child or young person's home area. The hearings environment is deliberately designed to be controlled but informal. Often it will just mean everyone sitting around a table and discussing the case.
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