Being a Board Member Q&A
Interested in finding out what it’s like being a Board Member for SCRA? Anela Anwar shares her story as she is preparing to leave SCRA after two terms and eight years as a Board Member…
Can you remember what made you apply for the Board Member vacancy?
I can remember clearly. A friend passed on a link to the vacancy with less than 24 hours before the deadline. At that stage, they were looking for candidates with experience of working with children and young people and I thought I could bring my experience to the Board. I was having a really busy day at work, but I thought it sounded like a really interesting opportunity. I started the application form after work, but I had plans to meet with an old friend for dinner. It was a short catch up as I decided to go home and finish the application before the deadline. It was a bit of a rush to get it done, but I am glad I did!
How did you find the process of applying?
Honestly, I found the process was a bit intimidating at the time. I felt I had knowledge and skills to offer the Board, but was nervous about how to best evidence this and doubted whether I fitted “the box” of a usual NDPB (Non Departmental Public Body) Board Member. I didn’t think I would be appointed. I thought I was too young (under 35 at the time) and I didn’t have any NDPB board experience. I did also wonder whether my gender and ethnicity would pose a barrier.
In the end I thought I don’t have anything to lose and set out what I thought my relevant skills, experience and values were using specific examples as evidence. The word count was a little challenging, but did help me to prioritise how much to share at that stage and what I could hopefully expand on if I got through to the next stage of the process. I think the Public Appointments team and SCRA have done a lot of work since then to improve the process and streamline the required criteria.
My interview was like a traditional interview with a panel. I remember being incredibly nervous before the interview. There was also a session with Hearings-experienced young people. That part worked so well, and the young people really put me at ease. It was so refreshing to not only be asked questions about my experience, but also about me as a person. I think it is important they have a role in the process as ultimately SCRA and the Board is all about improving the lives of children and young people.
What was your first Board meeting like?
I remember getting a bit of a shock when I received the Board papers and did wonder what I had let myself in for! However, walking into my first Board meeting, everyone was extremely welcoming and supportive. The Board and the senior team have created a really supportive environment for new Board Members. That initial welcome was very reassuring. The Chair of the Board took the time to induct and support new members and after a few meetings I felt much more confident.
What work were you involved with as a Board Member?
Broadly speaking, the Board’s role is to make sure the organisation is fulfilling its duties to the best of its ability. I applied to join the Board as I share SCRA’s vision that children and young people are safe, protected and offered positive futures. I felt strongly that more could be done to involve children and young people in the systems and processes that make decisions about their lives and to ensure that Scotland’s minority ethnic communities were being properly served.
In my first term, I focused on the work SCRA was doing around participation and engagement of children and young people and beginning to explore how the needs of Scotland’s black and minority ethnic communities were being met. I think the organisation has made some really good progress on improving the experiences of children and young people who come into contact with SCRA and engaging them in our work. There’s been lots of exciting developments like the Hearing room improvement project and our partnership working with Our Hearings, Our Voice independent board.
In my second term I think it would be fair to say I focused more on inclusion and diversity issues. SCRA is committed to inclusion and diversity and tackling under-representation. There have been some very positive steps forward, but there is work to be done. The Principal Reporter now chairs a new Race and Ethnicity Group which is a positive development. I am sorry I won’t be around to further work on inclusion and diversity, but I know the Board will continue to ensure this is a priority for the organisation and I am sure new Board members will bring renewed vigour and a wealth of knowledge and experience to support this work.
What’s been the highlights of your time as a Board Member?
There’s been so many, but engaging with Hearings-experienced young people from Our Hearings, Our Voice, Who Cares? Scotland and our own Modern Apprentices has been a privilege. I have also really appreciated the opportunity to visit local offices and meet staff on the frontline. They are an incredible group of dedicated people who do a difficult and challenging job working towards SCRA’s three aims: Care; Connect; Protect.
Would you apply again?
Absolutely! I am really sad to be leaving SCRA’s Board. I would do three terms if I could! This is an exciting and important time for the sector to improve and reform the Children’s Hearing System as work continues to Keep The Promise. I know that SCRA will continue to show commitment and leadership.
I would add that being a Board Member has been an incredible learning experience for me too. I would encourage anyone interested to apply.