CHILDREN’S Hearings Scotland have launched a national campaign to recruit over 500 new volunteer Children’s Panel Members to play a crucial role in supporting infants, children and young people across Scotland.

In Ayrshire, Children’s Hearings Scotland are looking to recruit 45 new Panel Members.

This new campaign aims to attract a diverse range of applicants, with an emphasis on recruiting more men and young people.

Children’s Hearings Scotland National Convener and Chief Executive, Boyd McAdam, said: “We are a listening organisation. What we are hearing loud and clear from children and young people attending hearings is that they want to see more diversity on the national Children’s Panel.

“Whilst the average age of Panel Members has fallen in recent years we know we need to do more. We also wish to increase diversity in terms of life experience that people across Scotland can bring to the role.”

James, Panel Member in Ayrshire, said: “It’s very important to have someone to support children. Children’s Hearings Scotland volunteers do this without knowing the child or young person or their families. This ensures a panel can make a decision with and for the child in their hearing. Panels are made up of all different people with all different views but always with the best interests of a child or young person at the heart.”

To support recruitment, the campaign has been redesigned for 2019 with a focus on the types of qualities everyday people have and can bring to the role.

Boyd added: “It is important that we reach as wide a range of people as possible because we need those who can relate to infants, children and young people and can make the very best decisions with and for them. This can be tricky for us as we know that there are some common misconceptions about being a Panel Member, such as ‘you need a law degree’ or ‘you have to have worked in children’s services’. Neither of these is the case. You need qualities like empathy, compassion and the ability to listen.

“The public are also sometimes unfamiliar with what Panel Members do and the Children’s Hearings System more generally. So, I’m asking the Scottish public to get behind our young people and to find out more.

Think about what you might be able to contribute and help us spread the word about this important role.”

North Ayrshire Councillor John Sweeney, representative on the Ayrshire Area Support Team, said: “Each year, more people are needed to continue the great work of the Children’s Panel. Potential volunteers often worry that they lack the experience or qualifications to get involved as a Panel Member but this simply isn’t the case. Full training is provided, but what matters most is the desire to make a difference to the lives of children and young people who are in need of care and support.”

Children’s Hearings Scotland is the organisation responsible for recruiting, training and supporting volunteer Panel Members.

There are 2,500 volunteer Panel Members in Scotland who make decisions with and for infants, children and young people in their local community.

In 2018/2019 31,653 children’s hearings were held across Scotland supporting 12,869 children and young people. 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 85% of all referrals were on care and protection grounds.

Applications close midnight on September 17.