Nationally, the organisation is looking to recruit over 700 trainee Panel Members.
The organisation is looking for people over the age of 18, from a diverse range of backgrounds, that reflect the children, families and communities they support.
CHS also has a legal obligation to have at least one male Panel Member at every children’s hearing, so this year the organisation is focused on raising greater awareness of the importance and impact of the role amongst men.
Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearings Scotland national convener and chief executive, said: “The Children’s Panel is a statutory service and couldn’t operate without volunteer Panel Members making decisions with and for children and young people.
“We are a forward-looking, inclusive organisation, one that puts the views of the children and young people we exist to serve, at the heart of everything we do – including recruitment.
“This campaign is centred on what young people who have experience of children’s hearings are telling us they want to see in their Panel Members. Qualities like being caring, compassionate, empathetic and a good listener.
“If you want to make a difference in your local community, I encourage you to take the opportunity this year to apply to join our wonderful volunteer community.”
Panel Members are volunteers from local communities who takes part in children's hearings. 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 made – because every decision, no matter how big or small, has an impact on the life of the child or young person in the hearing.
Stuart Cosgrove, a Panel Member in Aberdeen, said: “The Children’s Panel is important because it ensures that children and young people have a voice and their views are heard and taken into account when decisions are being made about their future.
“When I applied to be a panel member I was really interested in learning more about the Children’s Hearing System and finding a way that I could truly help to make a difference in my community. I was unsure if I was the correct fit for what the Children’s Hearing System would be looking for, partly because of my age, but also because of my own perceived lack of experience with children and young people.
“I feel by being a younger panel member I have a greater appreciation for the experiences young people have in education or with peers present day and especially within our local authority.”
In 2020/21 16,248 children’s hearings were held across Scotland supporting 8,977 children and young people. The majority of hearings during the pandemic have been held virtually which was a massive undertaking for volunteers who managed to continue providing their support throughout.
There are a range of reasons that a child or young person may be referred to attend a children’s hearing. In the last year, approximately 85 per cent of all referrals were on care and protection grounds.
• Applications are now being invited for new Panel Members, and anyone interested in volunteering should apply before midnight on Wednesday, 9 February.
To find out more about the role of being a Panel Member for Children’s Hearing Scotland, and what is involved, go to chscotland.gov.uk.