Volunteer for the Children's Panel

Last updated: 3 July 2019

A Children's Panel decides how to support vulnerable children and young people who come to Children's Hearings.

A panel is made up of 3 lay (non-legal) tribunal members who volunteer to sit on hearings.

You will not be paid for being a Children's Panel member. But you can claim reasonable expenses for attending training, hearings and Children's Panel events.

Children and young people may be referred to a Children's Hearing for different reasons:

  • care and protection (the welfare of the child or young person is causing concern)
  • offending (the child or young person is believed to have committed a crime)

Who can apply

To apply to be a panel member, you need to:

  • be at least 18 years old (there is no upper age limit)
  • live or work in the local council area where you wish to serve as a panel member
  • be able to attend the pre-service training dates for your area (December to May)
  • provide 2 satisfactory references
  • be subject to a check under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme
  • have the right to work in the UK

You do not need any formal qualifications to become a Children's Panel member.

How to apply

Applications for Children's Panel membership are now closed. But you can still register your interest on the Children's Panel recruitment website..

Children's Hearings Scotland will contact you with more information, in summer 2018, before applications open again.

Your application will include a check under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme. You will not be charged for this check.

How panel members are selected and appointed

The recruitment process for new panel members involves all or most of the following:

  • completing an application form
  • attending an information session
  • attending a one-to-one interview
  • attending a group discussion

To begin with, you'll be appointed as a Children's Panel member for 3 years. This can be extended on further recommendation, following monitoring of performance.

What Children's Panel members do

Panel members decide how to help and protect the children and young people who go to hearings.

They make these decisions by talking to the child/young person, their family and the professionals (for example, a social worker) who are at the hearing.

They can decide:

  • to give the child or young person a Compulsory Supervision Order – this can say who they should live with, and who they can see and when
  • that formal, compulsory supervision measures are not needed and end the case
  • that they need more information to help them make a decision about what's best

The role of a Children's Panel member

Panel members need to make sure they know about – and understand – the child or young person's situation before a hearing takes place.

They do this by reading through the reports and papers they are sent.

During hearings, panel members have to:

  • encourage the child or young person and other people attending the hearing to participate effectively
  • work within the legal framework of the Children's Hearing System
  • make sure that everything they say and do in the hearing is fair
  • make sure they understand and uphold everyone's rights
  • make clear, justifiable decisions that are in the best interests of the child or young person
  • communicate their decisions both verbally and in writing
  • make sure that their decisions, and the reasons for them, are clearly recorded in line with the guidance

The time commitment

There's a big time commitment involved in being a Children's Panel member.

You need to be able to:

  • commit to the pre-service training programme (this takes place over 2 years)
  • prepare for each hearing by reading papers and reports
  • take part in hearings (up to 1 or 2 morning or afternoon sessions a month)
  • attend mandatory, on-going training (usually 6 courses over 3 years)

Time off work

You'll have to be able to attend hearings at times when you might normally be at work.

So if you have a job, it's important that your employer understands what's involved, and why being a panel member is important.

Under Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 panel members are entitled to reasonable time off work to carry out their duties.

What's reasonable depends on your employer's business, and the impact your time off will have on it.


Introductory training

As a new panel member, you'll have to take part in the introductory training programme.

This is spread over 2 years and starts with pre-service training. It's usually made up of:

  • 2 or 3 evening sessions
  • 7 full days of training
  • online study and assessment

Your training will help you develop knowledge and skills in areas including:

  • managing information
  • decision making
  • protecting rights
  • teamwork
  • effective communication
  • analytical thinking

You'll also be expected to observe (but not take part in) 2 or 3 Children's Hearings. They will be on weekdays during your initial 4-month training period.

Training after you're appointed

If you successfully finish your pre-service training – and are appointed to the Children's Panel – you'll be asked to:

  • attend a review and revision training day
  • take a 2-day 'Management of Hearings' course

After you've fully qualified as a panel member, you'll have to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

You'll do this by attending nationally provided training courses and local learning and development sessions.

Training is usually held in the evening or at weekends, but it's sometimes held on weekdays too.

When you complete your training – including the Management of Hearings course – you'll receive a Professional Development Award (PDA). This will be accredited to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 7.