Group to stand for panel volunteers

| 08 April 2008

A group representing the 5,000-plus youth justice volunteers in England and Wales is to launch formally on 23 April.

The Association of Panel Members will campaign to raise the profile and promote the interests of volunteer panel members working in youth offending teams (YOTs).

Sandra Beeton, chair of the association, said: "Panel members are relatively new arrivals in the youth justice system and have a perspective on issues that is hopefully as valid as those of other interest groups."

She said some parts of the youth justice system had been wary of the association, which has been forming slowly over the past 18 months. "The Youth Justice Board and others have been unsure about us, thinking we might be a trade union," she said. "But we don't want to be a nuisance, we want to be collaborative and put the needs of children first and work with YOTs to get the best for young people."

The association, which has Lord Ramsbotham as its patron, intends to focus its initial work on government proposals in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that will see more serious juvenile offenders go before panels. There will also be a push to make sure panel members get better training and equipment.

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