What is the Children’s Panel?
The Children's Panel makes legal decisions on how to support infants, children, and young people who come to children's hearings. At every children’s hearing there are always three volunteer, lay Panel Members and it is their role to: listen to the child or young person’s views, understand their circumstances, and ultimately make legal decisions about how to best protect and care for them.
What is a Panel Member?
Panel Members take part in children's hearings, and are legally appointed for three years. Their role is to listen and make legal decisions with and for infants, children and young people. They are there to ensure that the young person is at the heart of every decision reached – because every decision, no matter how big or small, has a huge impact. Panel Members are appointed for an initial three year period with the possibility of being re-appointed.
What is the National Convener’s role?
The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 introduced the role of National Convener to lead and oversee the Children’s Panel. The National Convener is an independent position with legal responsibilities to recruit suitable people to serve as Panel Members across Scotland, and to make sure they have the right training and support to enable them to make sound decisions in the best interests of infants, children and young people.
The National Convener is appointed by Scottish Ministers for a five year period which is renewable. They have a legal duty to make sure that children’s hearings are arranged when necessary and to select the Panel Members to serve on hearings. They provide information and advice to Panel Members and children’s hearings, including legal and procedural advice.
The National Convener must set up local Area Support Teams to support Panel Members in every local authority area. The National Convener delegates some of his legal responsibilities to local ASTs to carry out on his behalf. The National Convener must provide a separate report to Scottish Ministers every year in addition to the annual report provided by CHS.
What is Children’s Hearings Scotland?
The 2011 Act created Children’s Hearings Scotland as a public body to help the National Convener carry out his legal functions. Although the National Convener is also the Chief Executive of CHS, he is independent of CHS and the CHS Board, when carrying out his legal responsibilities as National Convener.
CHS recruits, trains and supports volunteer Panel Members who make legal decisions in children’s hearings, and volunteer Area Support Teams (ASTs) who provide support and guidance to Panel Members locally. You may have hear us called the Children’s Panel too.
What is the children’s hearings system?
Children’s Hearings Scotland is one of a number of dedicated organisations that work as part of the children’s hearings system. This care and justice system is unique to Scotland and exists to protect the safety and wellbeing of infants, children and young people nationally.
Children’s Hearings Scotland works closely with partners, across projects and groups at both a national and local level to improve children’s hearings and to consider how the wider system can best support the wellbeing of Scotland’s young people.
What is an Area Support Team?
There are 22 Area Support Teams (ASTs) across Scotland supporting Panel Members at a local level. These teams are made up of around 400 volunteers, nationwide. Within an AST there are 7 different roles: Area Convener, Depute Area Convener, Learning and Development Coordinator, Panel Practice Advisor, and Panel Representative.
Do I need any specific qualifications to volunteer?
You’ll be enthusiastic and committed to securing the rights of children and young people; able to lead and be part of teams; a strong communicator. You’ll also be able to demonstrate a strong commitment to and understanding of the ethos, values and principles of the children's hearings system.
Through the Panel Member training programme, you’ll gain a Professional Development Award for ‘Children’s Hearings in Scotland: Panel Members’. This sits within the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 7. It is a unique award that is verified by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and is one of the few awards available just for volunteers.
Will I get trained appropriately to be a Panel Member?
Operated in partnership with West Lothian College, our Children’s Hearings Scotland Learning Academy provides a range of online and face-to-face learning and development opportunities that ensure our Panel and Area Support Team members are well trained to undertake their roles.
Having the right skills, knowledge and values is a key part of both making effective decisions for infants, children and young people, and of supporting the Panel Members who make those decisions. We encourage our volunteers and staff members to undergo continuous training and development to make sure they are up to speed on the latest legislation and practice.
What will happen at a children’s hearing?
Three Panel Members are present at each children’s hearings and will be the decision makers. The infant, child or young person is the key participant at any hearing, closely followed by carers and/or family members. A Children’s Reporter (from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration) will be at the hearing too to make sure the hearing follows a fair process. The Children’s Reporter does not have influence on the Panel Members’ final decisions.
The Panel Members spend a hearing listening to everyone, considering information, and asking further questions if they are needed. The Panel Members will make sure that the attending young person is at the heart of their hearing and that decisions are made in the best interest of that young person. Legally, Panel Members must give full reasons for their decision and share these openly at the hearing.
What is the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration?
SCRA is responsible for protecting children at risk by making effective decisions about a need to refer an infant, child, or young person to a children’s hearing.
How do I make an Information Request to CHS?
The Information Governance team at Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) are responsible for handling all types of information requests. There are different ways you can ask to see information you are interested in or your own information. For full details on our processes, see our Information Governance page under Resources.