A new national Children’s Panel for Scotland 24 June 2013Bernadette Monaghan and Craig SpenceToday marks an important date in the life of the Children’s Hearings System, with the implementation of new legislation designed to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people in Scotland. With effect from today, Scotland has a single national Children’s Panel, which replaces the previous 32 local authority Children’s Panels. In addition, a network of 22 Area Support Teams providing support to panel members at a local level, replaces the previous 30 Children’s Panel Advisory Committees. From today, Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) also assumes responsibility for the recruitment, training and support of Scotland’s 2,700 volunteer panel members from the Scottish Government. The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 created the role of National Convener to act as a figurehead for panel members and to ensure they are consistently supported to a high standard. In addition, the Act created CHS as a new national body, with a remit to support the National Convener in undertaking her statutory responsibilities. National Convener Bernadette Monaghan said: “As the first National Convener of CHS, I am proud to represent Scotland’s 2,700 volunteer panel members. Having been a panel member myself, I know that the role is often complex, difficult and emotionally challenging. “The Children’s Hearings System has a great reputation. These changes brought into effect today are designed to continue supporting the Children’s Panel at a local level, but to do that within a national framework, providing consistency of practice and training right across Scotland.” Ms Monaghan continues: “We intend to continue supporting panel members in a range of different ways, from ensuring clear practice guidance and a national training curriculum is available, to raising awareness of the role of panel members with Scottish employers. This approach supports our corporate outcomes that panel members feel valued and respected in this challenging role and that ultimately, hearings are centred around the child or young person.” Craig Spence, Chair of CHS said: “This is an exciting day of change and opportunity. Bernadette and the dedicated staff teams at CHS and the Scottish Government have put a huge amount of effort into developing CHS. It is now an organisation which can consistently support members of Scotland’s Children’s Panel right across the country and enable them to continue making sound decisions to improve the lives of children and young people who come to hearings in their local area.” Photo of Craig Spence, Chair and Bernadette Monaghan, National Convener and Chief Executive, Children's Hearings Scotland.