Children’s Hearings Scotland has launched a national campaign to recruit over 500 new volunteer panel members across the country.
Forty of the posts will be in Fife.
The volunteers play a crucial role in supporting infants, children and young people across the region.
The campaign aims to attract a diverse range of applicants, with an emphasis on recruiting more men and young people.
The children’s hearing system ensures the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people – and ensure that they, and their families, get the right help and support when they need it.
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All panel members receive thorough training and are supported to ensure that they are equipped, competent, and confident to take the appropriate decisions.
Boyd McAdam, Children’s Hearings Scotland National Convener and chief xecutive, said: “We are a listening organisation and what we are hearing loud and clear from children and young people attending hearings is that they want to see more diversity on the 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.”
Mr McAdam outlined the qualities volunteers need.
He said: “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 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 such as empathy, compassion and the ability to listen.”
Liam Redpath (27) a senior planner at Sky, has been a volunteer panel member for five years.
He said: “I had been considering training as a social worker. One of my managers at Sky had asked me if I knew anything about the children’s hearing system.
“She told me that she volunteered for the panel and that I should think about joining.
“I was driving home that night and heard an advert about volunteering – it was quite hard hitting,
“I got home and did some research and decided that I was going to do it.
“Training was extensive and it prepares you for what lies ahead. We are also really well supported – if I have a particularly tough case the area support team is always there to offer support if needed and there are observers that constantly give feedback.”
Asked about what sort of qualities a panel member needs, Liam said: “The biggest quality is being able to listen.
“You have to listen to many different people on many subjects, be able to understand what they are saying, and make sure that you are listening to the views of the child or the young person.
“You need to have the ability to build trust.
“Families who come into the children’s hearing system need to trust that you are impartial and that you want to make the best decision for their child.
“It gives me a sense of pride knowing that, through my involvement as a panel member I’m doing something of real value for the children and young people in my local community”.
Applications to be a volunteer close on September 17. For more information, please visit: www.childrenspanelscotland.org.