The system relies on the efforts of trained volunteers - children's panel members - and this is possible in many cases only with the support of their employers.
The supportive partnership between the panel member and employer is crucial to the functioning of the Children's Hearings System. As members of a statutory tribunal under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992, panel members are entitled to reasonable time off from work to attend hearings. This is a statutory right under Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Therefore, the support of employers, line managers and colleagues is essential for the system to work effectively.
Children's Panel members are trained in skills that are transferable to the workplace. The highly rated training is funded by the Scottish Executive and delivered by four Scottish Universities. It develops skills which include:
Influencing and negotiating
Each year the Scottish Government funds and organises a national recruitment campaign in your local area. The campaign targets prospective panel members over the age of 18. No formal qualifications are required and panel members come from all backgrounds.
Before sitting on hearings, panel members are expected to undergo around 40 hours training spread over several months. This takes place mainly at weekends and in the evenings, however this will also include scheduled visits to hearings and related centres which may be during the day.
Hearings are held locally and usually during the day. Individual hearings vary in length but a normal session of 3 cases will take up a full morning or afternoon. Panel members usually take part in 1 or 2 sessions each month. Following the initial training, panel members are asked to attend further training events throughout their service and this is usually in the evenings or at weekends. They also need to spend time preparing for hearings by reading and analysing reports.
Panel members can usually claim travel and some other expenses. A loss of earnings allowance, in accordance with government guidelines, is also payable to the panel member where necessary, by the local authority.
Further information can be obtained from the Clerk to the CPAC at your local council headquarters.
The clerk to the CPAC is always interested to learn of employers who actively support staff in undertaking panel duties.