Big changes have been happening with Scotland’s Children’s Panels and as the new regime beds-in the need for new members, particularly men, is greater than ever.
The Children’s Panel is the largest legal tribunal in Scotland, making decisions to help the lives of vulnerable children and young people. The Borders is now part of the South East Scotland Panel (which also includes East Lothian, Mid Lothian and Edinburgh) as Children’s Hearing Scotland reduce the number of panels from 32 to 22 and work towards a uniform approach across the country.
Lead Panel Representative for the Scottish Borders, Meg Reid from Swinton who has been sitting on Children’s Panels for 19 years, explained: “Panels sit with three members and they have to be mixed.
“We have 32 people from the Borders but would like to have 42, and particularly need men to come forward.
Children’s Panel hearings are heard at Selkirk on Mondays, Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings, plus there can be emergency meetings any day of the week, and panel members are expected to be available once a month.
“The type of candidate we are looking for is someone who is non-judgemental, able to listen and absorb details quickly, can see things in all shades not just black and white, who can work in a team and can make a decision,” added Meg.
“A hearing is where the family comes with any professional working with them - teacher, social worker, legal representative, carer - and its a discussion around the table. Although its a tribunal it’s done informally and the Panel members always make a decision in the best interests of the children.
“We aren’t there to deal with innocence or guilt. If a youngster at 12 or 13 years isn’t at school and is getting into trouble there is always more too it.
“There are a lot of vulnerable families that need to get help under compulsion.
“You make a decsion on the day with the information you are given on the day.
“There are families who are willing to work alongside social work and try their best and social workers are doing a lot of good work out there so families don’t always end up at a Children’s Panel hearing.
“There are some sad cases but it’s rewarding because you have to do the best you could for that young person.”