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How to become a Children’s Panel member 

The children’s hearing system has been operating in Scotland for over 30 years. It was first introduced in April 1971 when the hearings took over from the courts most of the responsibility for dealing with children under 16 in need of care or protection or who commit offences.

On this page:

What does the role involve?
What will I get out of this?
What will I be expected to give back?
What skills do I need?
How much time will I be expected to give?
How do I get involved?

What does the role involve?

The Children’s Panel is a group of trained volunteers who come from a wide range of backgrounds. There is a panel for each local area. A children’s hearing is made up of three panel members (at least one of which must be male or female).

Children and young people can appear before the children’s panel for a number of reasons. This can include a children and young people who are:

  • likely to suffer serious impairment to health or development through a lack of parental care
  • failing to attend school
  • misusing alcohol or drugs
  • victims of an offence, including physical injury or sexual abuse

    At the hearing, panel members discuss the situation fully with the child, parents or carers, social workers and any other experts who may be present.

    Panel members will then make a decision about what would be in the child’s best interests. They may decide that nothing needs to be done, in which case they will discharge the referral. Alternatively, they may decide to make a supervision requirement which can involve the child being put under social work supervision or even in a residential home.

    What will I get out of this?

    This is a very worthwhile role, but it can be very challenging. As a member of the children’s panel you will be making decisions that are in the best interests of the child or young person. You will have the satisfaction of helping a child towards a more fulfilling life.

    You will receive full training which gives you the opportunity to develop a variety of skills including leadership, analytical thinking, negotiation, effective communication and decision making.


    What will I be expected to give back?

    Your time and commitment. Before becoming a panel member you are expected to undergo around 40 hours training spread over several months. This takes place mainly at weekends and in the evenings. However this will also include scheduled visits to hearings and related centres which many be during the day.

    You must be committed to this role, so make sure you have time to spare.


    What skills do I need?

    There are a few skills and qualities required to be an effective children’s panel member:

  • good listener
  • non-judgemental
  • the ability to make difficult decisions fairly and impartially
  • read and understand a lot of written information
  • the ability to put yourself in the position of the child or young person
  • some experience with children is useful

    How much time will I be expected to give?

    Being a children’s panel member can be quite time consuming. After your period of training, you should expect to give around 2 to 4 hours each week (usually an afternoon each week).


    How do I get involved?

    Panel members are appointed by the First Minister and recruitment campaigns usually start around August. Your local authority should be able to provide more information.

    Useful Contacts

    Scottish Executive Education Department
    Children's Hearings Branch
    Area 2 - B (S) Victoria Quay
    EH6 6QQ

    tel: 0131 244 5483

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