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Panel Practice Advisor – is it for me?

Panel Practice Advisor – is it for me?

We are currently recruiting for Volunteer Panel Practice Advisors across Scotland, a role that requires great assessment, observation and feedback skills. We spoke with Carol MacKenzie, a PPA in the Highlands and Moray, to find out why the role suits her and why this could be the volunteer role for you!

Tell us about you and your background

In 2004 I was accepted as a trainee Panel Member. I enjoyed the training, it was thorough, and it prepared me to sit on a Children’s Hearing. Being a Panel Member was both rewarding and at times challenging, but you really get a sense of being part of a team, making decisions which focus on the best interests of the children and their families. There are supportive Panel Members with you, and when you are new, the more experienced Panel Members teach you a lot and throughout the job.

I continued as a panel member for 10 years, and as happens my children were growing up and I went back to full time work with the NHS. I didn’t think I could offer the time commitment as a Panel Member and resigned. Shortly after this I was approached by the Deputy Area Convenor to consider the role of a Panel Practice Advisor as part of the Area Support Team. I was supported by the NHS and given a certain amount of time each year to use as a Panel Practice Advisor (PPA).

As a PPA my primary interest was to observe the Panels at Hearings and offer encouragement, support and practice advice, the transition from being actively engaged in the decision making to sitting back and watching others was interesting. As I became more involved as a PPA I embraced new challenges. Interviewing was totally new to me and dealing with concerns (fortunately an extremely small number), again this was new, and the training supplied by Children’s Hearings Scotland really does prepare you for the processes.

What I get from PPA volunteering personally is a belief that I’m improving the quality of the Panel Members practice, but also supporting them and letting them know that they are doing a good job. Panel Members feel the weight of those decisions and part of my role is to help them reflect and gain perspective on their practice. Of course, feedback is a two way street and having those conversations with Panel Members allows me to feel that I’m doing a valuable job as a volunteer PPA.

Why did you decide to become a volunteer?

At the time (2004) I was working in Early Years Care and Education, my own children were young, and my life revolved around children and families. I have always had an interest in learning new things and a Panel Member was talking to me about his experience of being on the panel. I became intrigued. Later that year I applied and was accepted as a trainee.

What positive impact has been a PPA had on you as a volunteer?

Being a PPA has certainly taught me new skills, some of which have helped me not only to do the job of a PPA but also to advance in my roles in the NHS. Having the confidence to speak up, and challenge thinking in an open and constructive manner, interviewing others and conducting investigations, how I approach problem solving in an inclusive way, these skills have definitely been enhanced by being a PPA.

What would you say to someone interested in applying to be a PPA and join our community?

Currently we are looking for new volunteer Panel Practice Advisors across Scotland and this is the job for you if you have two to three days per month and have the ability to work with others in a considerate and compassionate manner. If you believe that you can make supportive and reasonable judgements of others practice, see beyond the obvious and recognise and value difference in delivery style then consider becoming a PPA. And finally, if you want to learn, and help your local community’s vulnerable infants, children and families then this might just be the right way for you to volunteer.