Reflecting on 25 years of the Children's Panel​

Getting well-deserved recognition at Holyorood.Getting well-deserved recognition at Holyorood.
Getting well-deserved recognition at Holyorood.
Lorna Macaulay’s 25 years of service to the Children’s Panel in the Western Isles has been recognised at an event in Holyrood and this week she urged others to consider becoming part of the justice system dealing with young people.

She told the Gazette: “It’s an enormous privilege and responsibility as a trained volunteer to be allowed into a child’s life with the sole intention of making things better and helping to shape a way forward for the child and his or her family”.

Lorna, whose day job is as chief executive of the Harris Tweed Authority, joined the Children’s Panel when she was 25 years old and expecting her second son. “A lovely man I worked with at the time was a panel member and he encouraged me to apply. I will be forever grateful to Donald Duncan Maciver for that push. I saw in Donald Duncan that the voluntary work he occasionally disappeared off to do really mattered to him.

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“Having been a bit of a brat myself when a teen and later having done quite a bit of youth work locally, I thought I would give it a go and here I am 25 years later!”.

Lorna with Andrew Reeves, retiring chair of the Eilean Siar Childrens Hearing support teamLorna with Andrew Reeves, retiring chair of the Eilean Siar Childrens Hearing support team
Lorna with Andrew Reeves, retiring chair of the Eilean Siar Childrens Hearing support team

“We are a panel of around 15 people, the majority based in Lewis, with a smaller number of colleagues from Harris, Uist and Barra. I have seen many changes but what’s at the very heart of it all, in the hearing room itself, hasn’t evolved too much.

“There have been significant changes in law and practice but what still matters most is that we come to the best set of decisions possible for that child and family in front you at that time.

“What hasn’t changed is that we must ensure it’s a fair hearing, made as comfortable and understandable inasmuch as a formal legal tribunal can be. A Hearing is so intimate and it’s so important the family understand the process and that we are there to help and support the child, not punish or judge.

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“Being a parent is tough and we all make mistakes as we bumble through trying to do it right – whatever right is. We all go through tough times and I have taken home from the hearing room so many tips, techniques and inspiration from people I have met.

Lorna says: “I’ve hugged my own family tight after some difficult hearings and when the boys were younger I was wiser to some of the goings on out there as a result of panel work than they hoped I would be! Whilst not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, our system is very good and the continual improvements past, current and proposed will make it better”.

Since being introduced in the Social Work (Scotland) Act of 1968, the unique system of youth justice has been seen as a world-leading reform which continues to attract international interest.

Lorna will be pleased to have an informal chat with anyone interested in becoming involved.