Information for employers of panel members Do you have an employee who wishes to join the Children’s Panel or is already a Children’s Panel member? If so, this section of our website should help you to find out more about the Children’s Panel. What is the Children’s Panel? The Children’s Panel is the largest legal tribunal in Scotland, making decisions to help improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people. What is a panel member? A panel member is a lay tribunal member who volunteers to sit on Children’s Panels. Panel members are people from the community who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Panel members must be at least 18 years old but there is no upper age limit. Panel member recruitment takes place annually and the first term of appointment is three years. Children’s Panel members are appointed by the National Convener of Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) on recommendation of the Area Support Team (AST), which interviews and selects candidates. There are approximately 2,500 panel members across Scotland. What is the role of a panel member? Panel members play a vital role in the Children’s Hearings System, volunteering their time, skills and commitment to make decisions in the best interests of the children and young people that come to hearings, to help improve their lives. Panel members have to deal with cases that are often complex, difficult and emotionally challenging. They are carefully selected and highly trained for their role. But in many cases they need their employer’s support to carry out that role. What can I do to help? The supportive partnership between the panel member and employer is crucial to the functioning of the Children’s Hearings System. Children’s hearings normally take place during the day and panel members usually sit on one or two half-day sessions per month. As members of statutory tribunals, Children’s Panel members are entitled to reasonable time off work to carry out their duties (Section 50, Employment Rights Act 1996). So the willing and enthusiastic support of employers, line managers and colleagues is essential for the system to work effectively. As an employer, what do I gain? Children’s Panel members are trained in skills that are transferable to the workplace. Currently the highly rated training is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by West Lothian College. CHS works with West Lothian College to deliver a national curriculum for panel members, ensuring consistency across Scotland. The training develops skills which include: leadership teamwork effective communication analytical thinking decision making influencing/negotiating Panel members learn to absorb, consider and critically analyse large quantities of detailed information from the professional reports produced for hearings. These skills can help employees to be more confident and effective in almost any job. Supporting employees to volunteer, train and serve makes good business sense. Tell me more about the training Before sitting on hearings, panel members must complete an extensive ‘pre-service’ training programme. Only on successful completion of this, will panel members become fully qualified to sit on children’s hearings. Training mainly takes place at weekends and in the evenings. However, it will also involve scheduled visits to hearings and related centres, which may be during the day and for which the panel member may request time off. In addition, all panel members must also complete ‘in-service’ training. This includes attendance at mandatory training sessions and information, training and skills development sessions throughout the year. These sessions normally take place in evenings and at weekends. Panel members are also observed in hearings by a member of the AST as a key part of their practice development and review process. Can panel members claim expenses? Panel members can claim travel and some other out of pocket expenses from CHS. A loss of earnings allowance is also payable to the panel member by CHS, if paid time off is not available from their employer. In most cases, the amount payable to panel members will not fully compensate them for actual loss of earnings, so panel members value the full support of their employers. As an employer, what support can I expect from Children’s Hearings Scotland? CHS is a public body that assumed responsibility for the Children’s Panel on 24 June 2013. CHS is committed to ensuring that panel members feel supported in their role. CHS has carried out some initial research into the support received by volunteers within the Children’s Hearings System. CHS plans to follow this up with research with employers in Scotland to capture their experiences and understanding of the Children’s Hearings System and the role of panel members. We hope that this research will help us to provide the best support possible to both panel members and those who employ panel members. CHS will also be working to develop a recognition scheme for employers who support panel members. Do you want to know more about the Children’s Hearings System? Please refer to the ‘The Children’s Hearings System’ section on our website. A number of case studies from different employers are also available on the panel member recruitment website. To find out more, please contact the clerk to the Area Support Team in your local council. The clerk to the AST is always interested to learn of employers who actively support staff who are panel members. Contact details for the Clerks to the AST can be found in ‘Contact Us’.