A DAMNING report has exposed low morale among staff who oversee the children's hearing system and a loss of support among volunteers for the body in charge.

Bosses insist the views of children's panel members, employees, board members and volunteer organisers at Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) will lead to significant change.

However, the departure of key figures and criticism of its performance since it was established are causing concern at high levels.

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Responding to a survey, staff and board members at the organisation warned of morale problems, with 79% saying it was low.

Meanwhile, when panel members and other volunteers were added, the survey found that many felt unsupported and had little faith in the management team and board to address problems with communication, IT systems and support networks.

Only 55% were confident the survey would lead to change; 42% thought CHS would not respond to the review's findings.

Last week, it was revealed that CHS national convener and chief executive, Bernadette Monaghan, is to leave the organisation after overseeing a major restructuring of lay tribunals that has meant changes to the way volunteers are recruited and trained and children's hearings being organised on a national basis for the first time.

Four months after CHS took responsibility for the system, board members responded to concerns about performance by commissioning a £35,000 independent survey last October. The results were due to be published in January, but were postponed amid rumours about the findings.

The original findings remain unpublished but CHS has now issued a summary document that details the concerns and the board's planned response.

Other findings in the survey, carried out by Progressive Partnerships, show just 31% said they felt well informed about what was going on at the organisation, and only 43% of panel members felt well supported by CHS.

Respondents also criticised CHS for increasing their workloads and failing to understand workloads at a local level.

Board members were seen as remote, with only 16% seeing board members as easy to communicate with and only 12% feeling they were sufficiently visible. CHS decision-making was described as "unhelpfully slow".

A new IT system brought in to support the change is widely disliked, with only 28% agreeing that it was user-friendly. While the children's hearing system is hugely valued by those involved in it, with 92% saying they were proud to be involved, only 39% felt proud to be involved with Children's Hearings Scotland.

John Anderson, Interim Chair of Children's Hearings Scotland, said the findings made for hard reading. He added: "The survey findings identify that an overwhelming proportion of panel members feel proud to be associated with the Children's Hearings System.

"Panel member turnover is also low, so it is now up to the CHS Board and senior management team to ensure that both volunteers and staff feel well supported in their roles.

"This survey only provides us with a snapshot in time, so we plan to carry out an annual survey to revisit levels of satisfaction and to ensure that confidence and morale improve."