Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who sit on the Children’s Panel for the Western Isles. The children’s hearings system is unique to Scotland. It relies on volunteers who give their time to undertake extensive, rigorous training and then sit on hearings as panel members.
These volunteers have shown great dedication and during lockdown they have adapted to ensure this vital system does not suffer as a result of the current situation.
Children’s Panel Member Tim Langley said: “Panel members are used to, and trained for, face-to-face hearings where it is easier to communicate with children and parents, which helps panel members make better-informed decisions. It was a great wrench to then have to conduct hearings by Vscene, but Children’s Hearings Scotland provided comprehensive guidance, and the close-knit group of local panel members rose well to the challenge, although not all had the technology available.
These are emergency measures, and no one is suggesting that they are an ideal substitute for face-to-face hearings, but they enable us to continue to make vital, urgent decisions to keep children safe and to protect their wellbeing. We do it because we all feel that we are making a positive difference to children’s lives.”
The longest serving member of the Children’s Panel is Lorna Macaulay who has been a member for 22 years. She said: “It is vital that Children’s Hearings continue all year round and we all knew we had to find a way to adapt to the current situation. The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and Children’s Hearings Scotland have done an excellent job in quickly setting up a system through Vscene which has allowed us to carry out hearings safely. They really do deserve credit as we have been able to carry out hearings with panel members across the Western Isles with no problems.
I have found the change really comfortable and although it is very different to how we would usually work it certainly hasn’t led to any disadvantage and is working effectively. I think in some ways it is better for the families as they are in the comfort of their own home during the hearing.“