CHILDREN, normally up to the age of 16, can be referred to children's hearings because of concerns about issues such as truancy, parental neglect or offending.

A panel of three trained lay people can then make decisions about aspects of their lives, under the Children's Hearings Scotland Act of 2011. Such decisions are taken after discussion with the child themselves, relevant family members or carers, social work and others such as teachers.

Although panel members are volunteers, they need substantial training because of the range of actions available to them, including removing a child from the family, or depriving them of their liberty by placing them in secure care, should such measures be deemed in their best interests.

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As well as several full days of initial training, and follow-up days, panel members are expected to attend a set number of training sessions annually to top up their skills, and cannot continue to sit on panels unless they do so. After one year all panel members receive further training in chairing hearings.